LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) referred to its Benguet provincial office the position paper of the Onjun ni Kasikuran shi Kabayan (ONKASKA), an indigenous peoples organization of Ibalois, Kalanguyas and Kankanaeys in Kabayan, praying for the setting aside of the present list of elders of the organization and allow them to choose their elders who will represent them in the free and prior informed consent process for the 45-megawatt hydro project of the Abotiz-owned Hydroelectric Development Corporation (HEDCOR).
In his letter to Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) James Aroco and former Mayor Faustino Aquisan, NCIP-CAR Regional Director Roland Calde said the matter was forwarded to the FPIC team for proper action and consideration and the members of the team were likewise required to submit a report on the actions taken or planned for submission to the regional office and for them to submit their comment on the said position paper.
Calde assured the ONKASKA that the group will be updated after the conduct of judicious review of all the issues raised upon receipt of reports from all concerned parties.
In an 8-page position paper, Aroco and Aquisan, who represent the ONKASKA, sought the assistance of the NCIP-CAR to direct the dissemination of the information of the scheduled assemblies relative to the FPIC process to all sitios and every barangay in Kabayan by way of any other mode of communication and not just by hanging tarpaulins serving as notices along the road.
Further, the indigenous peoples (IPs) want the N|CIP-CAR to order the de-clustering of barangays in order that the first assembly will be conducted in each and every barangay of Kabayan, namely Adaoay, Anchokey, Ballay, Bashoy, Batan, Duacan, Eddet, Gusaran, Kabayan Barrio, Lusod, Pacso, Poblacion and Tawangan.
The concerned IPs want the re-scheduling of the FPIC process activities to allow for more time for a new list of elders, for information to reach the IPs in the municipality and for de-clustering barangays and to grant relief and remedies as may be just and equitable under the premises.
“We register our protest against the list of elders, notice and clustering of barangays. All these maneuvers limit the participation of the ICCs/IPs of Kabayan in the FPIC process for the hydro power plant project proposed by HEDCOR Inc.. The Ibaloi, Kalanguya and Kankanaey ICC/IP in Kabayan have the right to a process, that is, FPIC which includes the right to participate. The FPIC process is an exercise of the right to self-determination, one of the basic rights of ICCs/IPs guaranteed by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. No one, not even the NCIP, not even the government, can take this right away from any Ibaloi, Kalanguya and Kankanaey ICC/IP in Kabayan,” the position paper stressed.
As owners of the ancestral domain and stewards of the natural resources, the position paper underscored FPIC is their tool in fulfilling their inter-generational obligation or responsibility and instrument of empowerment to assert their right over their ancestral domain and that they will never allow it to be used insidiously to limit the exercise of their rights.