KABAYAN, Benguet – A large number of young professionals tracing their origin in this municipality want the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) to also consult them relative to the on-going free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process for the 45-megawatt Nalatang hydropower project being proposed by the Aboitiz-owned Hydroelectric Development Corporation (HEDCOR) Inc.
The concerned young professionals claim to think like their elders from their respective barangays that is why they deserve to be consulted by the FPIC team so they can share their insights on the proposed environmentally critical project that will impact on their ancestral domain.
“Like our elders, we are concerned about the preservation and protection of our domain that is why we must also be consulted. We also have our own insights on the project that will compel prospective developers to give to the indigenous peoples their equitable share from the utilization of the resources within their domain,” one of the concerned young professionals, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal and for security reasons, stressed.
The source questioned the obvious bias shown by the NCIP FPIC team toward the project proponent as the indigenous peoples (IP) leaders who are to represent the different barangays were handpicked by the team and not actually selected by the IPs in the area through their own indigenous selection processes.
According to the alarmed sources, the project proponent is allegedly in cahoots with the FPIC team to railroad the process amidst the various issues being raised that must be addressed by concerned agencies before the indigenous peoples can decide to give or withhold their consent as provided by law.
The sources claimed the IPs of Kabayan want an equitable share from the development and utilization of the natural resources in their domain. Their ancestors preserved and protected such resources for the benefit of their children and their children’s children, thus, oligarchs cannot just simply take away from them these resources at the ancestral domain owner’s expense.
They disclosed the project proponent had been giving away simple tokens to the selected IP leaders as an inducement to give their consent for the hydropower project. Such inducements is a violation of the FPIC process.
The sources asserted developers are welcome to utilize the resources within their domain but not to the extent of shortchanging them. Those conducting the FPIC process should inform and educate them about their rights so that they will know what to demand from the developers.
Under the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, companies interested in developing and exploring the resources of the State are required to secure the free and prior informed consent of the affected indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities having domain over the said areas prior to introducing any development.
The sources argued interested hydropower developers should not belittle the IPs because they can be partners in the proposed development of the resources if given the equitable share. They also remind the project proponent and the NCIP FPIC team that the indigenous communities have the right to deny consent to the project,