KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IP leaders in this town denounced the alleged harassment and machinations being employed by some Badeo barangay officials and a municipal councilor to force them to withdraw their signatures to a manifesto written in Kankana-ey that declared lawyer Severino Lumiked, team leader of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) free and prior informed consent (FPIC) team, as persona non grata in four sitios of Badeo for his alleged manipulation of the results of the FPIC done in their place for the proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from the concerned barangay officials and a municipal councilor, revealed that the said officials had been allegedly going around Badeo and threatening those who signed the persona non grata manifesto that Lumiked will be reportedly filing still undisclosed cases against them in Manila, thus, they have to withdraw their signatures in the said manifesto which was furnished concerned government agencies and local governments.
Further, the said barangay officials allegedly threatened a person who just passed a recent board examination that the license will be cancelled if the said individual will not withdraw the signature to the petition.
“We denounce the way our barangay officials and a municipal councilor belittle our intelligence as if we were not aware of the contents of the manifesto, especially that it was written in Kankana-ey. It seems they are trying to undermine our intelligence as if they are the only educated individuals in our place. It is hurting to be projected as if we do not know anything about what is happening in our domain. They are the ones who are in cahoots with the project proponents of the hydro plant amidst our opposition in obvious exchange for certain considerations advantageous to their personal and political interests,” the source stressed.
The acts of these Badeo officials in harassing signatories to the persona non grata manifesto are clear acts that they just trying to save face as they may have promised consent even prior to the conduct of the FPIC process that is why they are justifying whatever considerations they have received from the proponents in exchange for their favorable endorsement which was opposite what came out from the FPIC process.
According to them, the harassment and machinations of some Badeo barangay officials and a municipal councilor violate the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and the guidelines on the conduct of a free prior and informed consent process which expressly respects the right to say NO. The signatories to the manifesto are just exercising their rights to preserve and protect their ancestral domain and by signing the persona non grata manifesto, they exercised their right to self-determined development of their ancestral domain that is now being threatened by the ambitious hydro project of Coheco Badeo Corporation. They are afraid they will repeat the experience of their peers in Cuba, Kapangan whose consent was sold by the same proponent to another developer.
The IP leaders assured their fellow IPs that they will stand by them in their expected uphill battle against the implementation and realization of the project, thus, they should not be simply threatened by the desperate acts of some Badeo barangay officials and the municipal councilor to compel them to withdraw their signatures to the persona non grata manifesto because by withdrawing their signatures, they are already giving up the fight that has just started against abusive and enterprising developers wanting to rape Kibungan’s ancestral domain.
The IP leaders and the affected landowners asserted their rejection of the ambitious project and that they will exert extra-legal or legal means of preventing the proponents from raping their domain and ruining the state of their environment which they had preserved and protected since time in memorial, thus, they will not recognize the yes vote that were cast by pre-selected members of the council of elders which result was allegedly manipulated by Lumiked who refused to give weight to the resolutions against the project signed by hundreds of IPs belonging to the domain.
On the other hand, other sources revealed that the mere fact that Larry Kim, chairman of the Coheco Badeo Corporation, allegedly signed a memorandum of understanding already means that the enterprising Korean businessman already sold the company to Chinese energy developer which should not be the case.
The sources claimed IPs are always at the losing end of the deal because it will be the Korean businessmen that will be earning billions of pesos without even sweating while the ancestral domain of IPs will be at the risk of being ruined, ravaged and destroyed just to give way for the project that will cause the displacement of thousands of IPs from their sources of livelihood without guaranteed compensation.