ITOGON, Benguet – Indigenous peoples from the municipality will be getting more benefits from the operation of the 140mw Binga hydroelectric power plant after their council of elders forged a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) Benguet for the operation of this renewable energy plant.
The MOA signing came after more than 2 years of negotiations between the renewable energy provider and the Itogon ancestral domain owners facilitated by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Under the said agreement, SNAP Benguet will provide the Itogon ancestral domain which hosts the 140mw Binga hydroelectric power plant about P10.3 million annually starting this year or an equivalent of 3.10 centavos per kilowatt hour total benefits.
The agreed total benefits include 1.65 centavos per kilowatt hour from the plant’s annual production and an annual special fund of P1 million for partnership projects promoting indigenous culture in addition to the existing benefits provided by the company since 2008 which now amount to P3.8 million. To boost the special fund for cultural partnership projects, SNAP Benguet will provide a stimulus fund of P5 million to cover the years 2023 to 2025.
Further, SNAP will also voluntarily provide a one time benefit of P6.1 million or equivalent to 1.65 centavos per kilowatt hour of its 2021 production, the year when the negotiations started, to the ancestral domain owners.
The indigenous peoples, through the Itogon Indigenous Peoples Organization (IIPO) and the Tinongdan Indigenous Peoples Organization (TINPO), stand to receive an additional P6 million representing 1.65 centavos per kilowatt hour of SNP’s 2022 production and the adjusted value of its 2022 corporate social responsibility fund.
SNAP also agreed to escalate the value of the benefits by 5 percent every 5 years until the lapse of their agreement in 2041.
In 2008, SNAP Benguet took over ownership and operation of the Binga hydroelectric power plant which was then a government facility through a successful privatization bid. SNAP undertook consultations with the IP community, capped with an agreement to provide community benefits through a corporate social responsibility program and since then, the company had been providing annual benefits to the IPs.
The negotiations for additional benefits started in June 2021 among SNAP Benguet, TINPO, and IIPO where the IP organizations formally accepted SNAP’s offer of additional benefits in December 2022 or after the conduct of 19 negotiations during the said period.
SNAP will be providing the said benefits to the IP community, through its designated IPOs, on an annual basis. This gives the IP community greater control over projects they want to implement.
On behalf of the management team of SNAP Benguet, I thank the IP communities of Itogon for their continued trust and support. This MOA signing is a testament to the spirit of partnership that prevails between the SNP and our IP brothers and sisters,” SNAP Group president and chief executive officer Joseph S. Yu stressed.
“We look forward to a positive impact to the community and its people based on this mutual cooperation,” he said.
Aside from giving to IPOs, the company will continue to extend separate voluntary CSR funds to its host local government units including the municipality of Itogon, barangay Tinogdan and its now adopted host community, barangay Dalupirip. The company also provides mandatory benefits to energy host communities through the national wealth tax and the one-centavo per kilowatthour Energy Regulations 1-94 fund.
Mayor Bernard S. Waclin congratulated the IP organizations, the council of elders, the company and the NCIP for having sealed such an agreement.
He expressed hope that the committed benefits will be wisely used for the advancement of the IPs living within the Itogon ancestral domain for them to realize growth and development.
TINPO chairperson Norberto Pacio expressed his gratitude to the NCIP for facilitating the negotiation process among the IP organizations, SNAP Benguet.
He also thanked SNAP Group president and CEO Joseph Yu and SNAP vice president for corporate affairs Mike Hosillos for their support and sponsorship of the IP-related activities conducted in the municipality.
For her part, IIPO president Rosita Bargaso underscored that with the said agreement, IPs can achieve their dreams with the help of the investors and with the assistance of the NCIP.
“We persevered for nearly two years of this negotiation. We thank everyone for their patience,” Bargaso stressed.
According to Hosillos, the contract represents the progress and throughout almost 15 years of partnership with Itogon.
“It also shows our genuine sincerity to being the IP community’s partner in progress,” Hosillos added.
“We look forward to working with our host communities to realize our shared vision to protect and nurture IP culture,” he stated.