LAGAWE, Ifugao – Gov. Dennis Habawel urged all proponents for the put up of various hydro power plants in the different parts of the province to painstakingly follow the stringent free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process with the affected indigenous peoples to prevent further complications once their respective projects will be built and will be operational.
Habawel reminded proponents of the put up of hydro power plants provincewide not to circumvent the free and prior informed consent process because it would do them good if they follow the prescribed procedures while it will not do them good if they tend to opt for the shorter route.
SN Aboitiz Power is proposing to put up a 390-megawatt power complex along the Ibulao river, particularly at Alimit here, while Qua River wants to build a small hydro power plant in Tinoc.
“We want our hydro power proponents to be patient in consulting with the affected indigenous peoples, especially in securing their free and prior informed consent, so that they will not encounter future problems that will compromise their respective projects,” Habawel stressed.
For the SN Aboitiz project, Habawel said the company plans to secure the consent of the affected indigenous peoples by the end of the year for them to pursue the required feasibility study and secure the funding for the project and eventually break ground by the end of 2017 or early 2018.
On the other hand, the governor said proponents of the Tinoc hydro project must go back to the drawing board because of the protests of the affected indigenous peoples withdrew their support to the project that resulted to the eventual dissolution of the memorandum of agreement signed for the project.
Under the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA), proponents of development projects in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities must first seek the free and prior informed consent of the affected IPs prior to the implementation of their desired projects in the said areas.
Habawel said indigenous peoples know whether or not proponents of development projects are sincere in their desire to closely work with them, thus, project proponents should not be easily disappointed if they could not immediately secure the support of the people for their project since their endorsement will undergo an inherent process among the indigenous peoples before they come out with their favourable recommendation to their project or deny the same on the premise that such proposal would pose a serious threat to their ancestral domain or to the state of their environment.
Habawel said indigenous peoples should not be taken for granted in assessing whether or not development projects are beneficial to their communities because they are aware of what their rights are and they also know the sins of multinational companies who implemented projects in other IP-dominated areas with negative or positive impacts to their communities among others, thus, there decisions should not be rushed or prodded to prevent further problems on their projects.
By Dexter A. See