LUNA, Apayao – Gov. Elias C. Bulut, Jr. criticized the officials and employees of the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) for not allegedly providing the needed technical assistance to the local officials and indigenous peoples (IPs) in the province favouring the put up of renewable energy plants in identified growth areas to hurdle the tedious free and prior informed consent (FPIC) for the proposed hydro projects.
The governor revealed local officials and IPs already did their part in convincing their fellow IPs potentially affected by proposed hydro projects to relocate to safer grounds but the FPIC process seems to be not in favour of the IPs and instead in favour of those who are against the projects even without valid reason and even if they are not residents of the affected areas.
“We are disappointed over the way the NCIP handles the FPIC process for our proposed renewable energy project. We invited potential hydro investors to help develop Apayao but it seems the present conditions of the FPIC process are not investor-friendly,” Bulut stressed.
The governor disclosed local officials are now being blamed by the IPs for their displacement from their previous dwellings after having relocated to safer grounds upon their request to give way for the project and the IPs are now coming back to them to look for jobs but the investors have yet to start their projects because of the delayed completion of the FPIC process.
According to him, there is a need for the NCIP to review the guidelines of the FPIC process to make sure that the IPs will not be compromised, especially if they are in favour of the project to introduced in their ancestral domains so that their desired growth and development can be realized for their own benefit and that of future generations.
Bulut asserted the IPs of Apayao should not be affected by the problems of the NCIP in other similarly situated provinces in the region because the IPs in the different barangays and municipalities welcome the implementation of environmentally-friendly development projects that can contribute to improving their economic situation.
He underscored the development of the province’s hydro potentials will definitely be a big economic driver for the province because aside from having reliable source of power, more jobs will be generated for the qualified residents, guaranteed income for the host communities and increased economic activities and sources of livelihood for the people.
Under the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA), companies intending to exploit, develop and utilize the rich resources of the State must first secure the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the affected indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities who will be affected.