KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Embattled indigenous peoples (IPs) petitioned the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) to immediately issue a cease-and-desist order stopping the Coheco Badeo Corporation from proceeding with the Free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process for its 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project in barangay Badeo because of the prohibited acts committed by company officials in violation of existing laws, rules and regulations.
In a 4-page letter to NCIP-CAR regional director Roland P. Calde, the IPs of Tacadang represented by lawyer Cyrus Calaya expressed confidence that the agency will appreciate the wisdom of their complaint and not sit on it and that it will appropriately act on it as required by the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA) and pertinent guidelines.
He revealed of late, Coheco Badeo Corporation officials had been making bold statements about its proposed pump storage project in the print and broadcast media and no less than the chief executive officer Apolinario Bagano campaigned over a local FM station on June 22, 2017 wherein he expressly solicited the yes vote of barangays Badeo and Tacadang at a time they are under the so-called freedom period.
Calaya pointed out to date, the IPs of barangays Badeo and Tacadang should not be induced or influenced in any manner by the proponent as provided in the 2012 FPIC guidelines and clearly, the biased publicity during the freedom period is a prohibited act under the FPIC guideline considering as this will unduly affect the consensus of the affected IPs.
Section 22 of the 2012 FPIC guidelines provides that following the second community assembly is the consensus-building period and this is the period when the IPs shall proceed to consult among themselves, employing their own traditional consensus-building processes, to further understand and discern the merits or advantages and demerits or disadvantages of the proposal and intelligently arrive at a consensus. Except for NCIP representatives who shall document the proceedings, the applicant and non-members of the IP community are strictly enjoined from participating in the consensus-building activities or interfering in any manner in the decision-making process. Non-IPs or migrant IPs who are residents of the ancestral domain may only participate if allowed by the owners in accordance with their customs and traditions, provided however, that the permission be made in writing and signed by the authorized elders.
Calaya alleged that on June 26, 2017, the proponent reportedly gave P500 each to the attending IPs during the community consultative assembly held in Madaymen and giving money is an act of bribery.
According to him, most awful is that on July 2, 2017, the proponent led by Bagano went to Badeo to conduct surreptitious negotiations with the affected community in blatant violation of the existing freedom period provided by law and the said intentional acts are clearly prohibited acts defined and penalized by the FPIC guidelines.
Calaya committed to submit their pieces of evidence on the said allegations the soonest possible time for the appreciation of the NCIP-CAR and for it to issue the appropriate ruling.
Herald Express tried its best to get this side of the management of Coheco Badeo Corporation on the said sensitive issue but concerned officials failed to send their reply as of press time.