LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) warned potential developers of the natural resources of the country that they must first secure the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the whole ancestral domain of indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities before the conduct of any works that might intrude into the domain.
Lawyer Roland Calde, NCIP-CAR regional director, said while it is true that the development activities of developers will be confined in a certain community within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples, it is still important for developers to seek the consent of the whole domain because they might also be affected by the type of development that will be introduced in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
“The conduct of the FPIC process is also applicable to the applications for the declaration of Minahang Bayan areas. Some groups of small scale-miners have already been visiting our office regarding the FPIC process and we informed them of the new guidelines that require them to secure the consent of the whole domain for their potential Minahang Bayan sites,” Calde stressed.
The NCIP pointed out the new FPIC guidelines is applicable to all types of development within indigenous peoples’ communities that will be affected by small-scale mining operations, hydropower development, and geothermal power projects, among others, that involve the exploitation, development and utilization of the country’s natural resources.
According to him, potential developers must not attempt to intrude into the domain of indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities without their FPIC because they will encounter stiff opposition from the affected communities that might eventually derail their projects.
Calde said proponents must instead strictly adhere to the prescribed guidelines by applying for the conduct of the FPIC process for their projects to be able to win the hearts of the indigenous peoples rather than intrude into their domain that might cause serious complications in their bid to exploit, develop and utilize the available natural resources in the place of development as the affected villagers might strongly oppose the proposed development project because of the attempt to deceive them by attempting to intrude in their domain.
He appealed to indigenous peoples and indigenous communities to be vigilant on any pre-development activities being undertaken by prospective developers within their domain so that they can immediately seek the assistance of concerned government agencies and law enforcers to stop the intrusions being done by unscrupulous developers that tend to undermine the integrity of the FPIC process to advance the interests of the potential developers of the country’s natural resources.
On the other hand, Calde called on potential developers to adhere to the new FPIC guidelines because it will definitely help them convince indigenous peoples’ communities to understand the kind of development being proposed and that the communities have a right to say no.