KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned land owners belonging to an influential clan in the remote village of Badeo proposed a 4-point condition that must be complied with by the COHECO Badeo Corporation, proponent of a 500-megawatt pump storage facility, for them to support the renewable energy project.
In his letter to Badeo Punong Barangay Bestre A. Domes and members of the Barangay Council, Leonero Joseph of the Bagesbes clan claimed that it is not only their clan that is questioning the COHECO Badeo Corporation about its ambitious project, but there are also some community residents who are aware of the real issues surrounding the implementation of the project.
“I know that you are aware that COHECO Badeo Corporation was just recently formed by a certain Korean national named Larry Howon Kim. This Korean is not an investor but only a prospector so that after all the permits have been secured, he will sell the project to willing investors. We have seen this in his previous project in our place. I am sure that after we give our consent to COHECO Badeo Corporation, this Larry Howon Kim will practically sell our consent and our natural resources to investors who may not honor the benefits promised to us. The investors might not respect our traditions and culture,” Joseph stressed.
In order to guarantee the benefits of their community from the hydro project, Joseph suggested that once Larry Howon Kim will sell the company to willing investors, the indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities of Badeo should get a guaranteed 20 percent share from the developer’s fee based on cash and shares of his fee and that the share of the community should be given at once upon receipt of the payment from the investors so that it will be used for socio-economic development activities of the community while awaiting the put up of the project.
Further, Joseph argued that the indigenous peoples should have a share from the developer’s fee because without their consent for the utilization of the natural resources within their domain, he will not have something to sell to willing investors, especially that he is not even a Filipino.
He explained the share of the indigenous peoples from the Korean national’s developers’ fee will be used for the scholarship of their children, livelihood projects for qualified local residents and other long-term social projects that will help improve the economic activities and livelihood of the people in the area.
According to him, the 20 percent share of the indigenous peoples will be exluded from the benefits to be given to the community from the agreement to be entered into between the IPs and the developer through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
Joseph challenged the COHECO Badeo Corporation to be transparent and reveal its investors so that the people could already assess whether or not its officials are responsible in upholding their rights over their ancestral domain.
Moreover, he asserted the corporation should not cut short the process just to save on expenses but instead follow the required procedures prescribed by existing rules and regulations of the NCIP on free and prior informed consent.
Joseph pointed out the local group which is lobbying for the project and Mr. Kim should not hide the real purpose of eventually selling the project once they are able to secure their consent and the pertinent permits; they should already inform the people about it so that they will not commit a mistake in supporting the project.
He claimed the clan is willing to sit down with COHECO Badeo Corporation management, together with their lawyers, to iron out the above conditions to be put in writing before any FPIC process will be conducted in their place.
If the COHECO Badeo Corporation will agree to the outlined conditions, Joseph disclosed he is willing to donate a portion of his property in Mocgao, Badeo to be used for the construction of a multipurpose hall for the community as his counterpart for the development of their place and that their demands should be appropriately addressed before any FPIC process will proceed.
He challenged the barangay officials to protect the interest of the people so that their place will be able to experience robust development in the future.
He agreed to the revelation of the barangay officials that Badeo is one of the most undeveloped communities in the province that is why their clan is not opposing the project itself. What they are questioning is the business scheme of Mr. Kim who will just sell their consent and natural resources to willing investors and term it as his developer’s fee at the expense of indigenous peoples.
“We are for the development of our place provided our interest should not be bargained away to foreigners. You are our officers whose oath is to serve and defend us and so you must look into this matter seriously,” he added.
He questioned the real intention of the barangay council in passing the resolution because instead of protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and their constituents, it looks like the barangay officials are protecting the interest of private developers who are out to abuse the natural resources within their domain which is obviously disadvantageous to the present and future generations.
Earlier, the Badeo barangay council passed a resolution requesting Joseph to explain why he is opposing the project when one of the clan members whose property will be affected is supportive of the put up of the pump storage facility.