KIBUNGAN, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) emphasised the COHECO Badeo Corporation is not exempted from the coverage of the existing guidelines for the conduct of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process promulgated by the Commission, saying that it is unfortunate for the company if there is truth to the reports that its officials have been going around the town informing the local residents that the NCIP is now on their side.
Lawyer Roland Calde, NCIP-CAR regional director, said while it is true that COHECO Badeo Corporation officials were able to submit pertinent documents to comply with the requirements outlined in an earlier cease and desist order, their submission should not be construed as a green light for them to pursue their activities considering that based on initial assessments, the required documents are still not complete, thus, the need for the company to complete the outlined requirements before the agency will proceed with the next move.
“We will still wait for the completion of the requirements ranging from simple financial up to complicated technical requirements for our perusal. Let it be clear that we will not grant exemptions to the company because other hydropower developers that complied with the required submissions will surely file their complaints,” Calde stressed.
The NCIP-CAR official claimed COHECO Badeo Corporation’s 500-megawatt pump storage hydropower project in barangay Badeo is considered a big project, thus, the prescribed FPIC procedures must be strictly observed because other similar but smaller projects were able to accomplish the prescribed requirements that allowed them to proceed to the next step of the process.
He said the NCIP should be given enough time to assess, evaluate and validate the veracity of the documents submitted by the company before the agency will give the go-signal for the conduct of the field-based investigation and the subsequent organization of the FPIC team that will facilitate the conduct of the full-blown FPIC to determine whether the ancestral domain owners of Kibungan will allow the project or reject it which is within their right.
According to him, NCIP officials will not succumb to the bullying and influence-peddling being done by some COHECO Badeo Corporation officers because their decision whether or not to lift the existing cease and desist order and to organize the required FPIC team will depend on the corporation’s compliance to the submission of the documents required of them for the agency’s assessment and evaluation.
Earlier, concerned land owners criticized several COHECO Badeo Corporation officers for allegedly continuously misinforming the local residents by informing them that NCIP officials are now on their side and that the Commission already relaxed the rules for the conduct of the FPIC process because of their supposed interventions that will allow them to pursue the activities that they will conduct which was the subject of the earlier cease and desist order issued by the regulating agency.