KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IPs) in barangay Badeo strongly condemned their alleged continuous exclusion in decision-making for the proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro power plant being proposed by the Coheco Badeo Corporation, saying that the recently-concluded special community consultative assembly done for the purpose was violative of their customary laws on conflict resolution and concensus-building.
The IPs, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from their fellow IPs and the power company, claimed that the conduct of the special community consultative assembly in Badeo last January 10, 2018 primarily to discuss the economic benefits of the proposed project rendered them as mere spectators instead of allowing them to actively participate in the discussions over the promised benefits.
“We feel that our customary laws were trampled upon by the members of the free and prior informed consent team who conducted the special assembly because we were not allowed to make our decision considering that what was handed down to them as marching orders from the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples is that there will be no votation which is clearly in violation of existing laws, rules and regulations,” the sources stressed.
The sources argued that under the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the customary laws of IPs shall reign supreme in conflict resolution and concensus-building relative to controversial issues ar4ising from the existence of their ancestral domain.
However, in the case at hand, the IPs claimed the failure of the NCIP FPIC team to schedule the conduct of another community consultative assembly and the subsequent concensus-building activities relative to the proposed project is already a blatant violation of their customary laws which should not be the case.
According to them, it is the NCIP FPIC team that allegedly dictated the situation during the special assembly instead of simply overseeing the process that brings them to the conclusion that the decision not to allow them to vote is the sole decision of the FPIC team and not the affected IPs who are the ones who should decide on the matter.
The IPs appealed to the leadership of the NCIP-CAR to reconsider its decision not to allow the conduct of another community consultative assembly and the required consensus-building to allow the affected IPs living in the domain to decide whether or not to favor the ambitious project being endorsed by former provincial and municipal officials who want to raise campaign funds for their future political ambitions.
The sources disclosed that while t5he matter remains unresolved and most of them deprived to render their decision for or against the project, there will always be instability in the place and that there will always be anxiety among the residents living in the areas that stand to be submerged by the expected floodings to be caused once the huge dams of the project will be built in their domain.
The IPs believe that the promised economic benefits are just promises because the current composition of the company will not be the ones to pay for it but it will the buyers in waiting of the power company. By HENT