KABAYAN, Benguet – Alarmed land owners and indigenous peoples (IP) leaders strongly denounced the alleged inducements being done by some hydropower developers intending to operate the 45-megawatt Nalatang hydropower complex to get the people to support their company to pursue the implementation of the energy project.
The sources, who requested anonymity for security reasons, challenged the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to take full control of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process to stop these bribery activities and inducements which are a violation of the FPIC principles and process. Bribery is a form of inducement which is not allowed under the FPIC process.
“We learned that the members of the council of elders in some of the barangays will be toured, while some of those who had been attending meetings had been receiving small amounts of money to gain the support of my fellow IPs for a multinational corporation to implement the project,” the source stressed.
Several of the sources admitted they were insulted over the rampant bribery being done among their fellow IPs primarily to secure their consent for the project, saying that while they need added sources of income to sustain their livelihoods, hydropower developers should not look at them as cheap because most of them are still principled individuals who will not go to the extent of selling their consent and the resources within their domain.
It is reported that the small amounts of money that the companies give to the IPs and the items being given in kind are just temporary tokens to induce them to endorse the interested companies. Concerned villagers believe that what is more important is the equitable share that they will get from the operation of the plant as they own the resources in their own domain which their ancestors were able to protect and pass on to the present generation of IPs.
The concerned IP leaders appealed to their colleagues not to be easily carried away by the benefits that they are currently getting from the hydropower developers because such monetary benefits are just temporary. These concerned leaders call for better benefit-sharing schemes that will guarantee the preservation and protection of their domain from environmentally critical projects aside from the monetary benefits that they stand to get once the project will be implemented and during the term of the operation.
Further, they claim that by the current pace that the FPIC activities are being undertaken coupled with the inducements in the different barangays, shows that the hydropower developers are only interested in securing the consent of the IPs at any possible cost.
The sources warned their fellow IPs that it will be their children and children’s children who will suffer the consequences of their ill-advised actions in endorsing hydropower developers that refuse to provide the IPs with the proposed equitable share from the operation of the renewable energy plants in their domain.
Moreover, they pointed out it is better for their domain to be stagnant rather than being developed by insensitive hydropower developers.