BAGUIO CITY – The settlement of the issues on the compensation of residents whose lands were affected by the city-owned mini-hydroelectric plants holds the key to whether the Tuba government will allow the reoperation of the city-owned mini-hydroelectric plants in Tadiangan and Nangalisan barangays.
This was reached during the breakthrough dialogue between the officials of the two local governments where city mayor Mauricio Domogan and Tuba officials led by Mayor Florencio Bentrez and Vice Mayor Clarita Sal-ongan laid down their respective positions on the issue.
Bentrez stressed they will only allow the reoperation subject to conditions that there will be no diversion of water from the river system and that the concerned barangays should issue resolutions interposing no objection to the operation.
He said the second condition would mean that all issues on compensation have been resolved and the new terms on sharing scheme have been reached between the parties.
Domogan expressed the city’s willingness to settle the rental through the implementation of the court-issued compromise settlement saying the agreed amount of roughly P2.7 million has already been set aside for the purpose. However, there was a need to comply with a provision in the settlement for the lot owners to first settle the case filed by the city government for the disruption of the water supply to the facilities by securing a waiver of claims for damages from the city council.
The mayor said city councilors were also intent on issuing the waiver to facilitate the payment to the landowners however the body wanted to clear the matter first with the Commission on Audit (COA) to ensure that they will not incur any liability.
The mayor said he personally consulted with the COA but was told that they would need time to study the matter.
The mayor appealed to the Tuba council and to the landowners group to help the city thresh the matter out with the COA by sending their representatives.
“If the COA approves it, then the city council can waive the claim for damages,” he said.
He also appealed for cooperation to achieve a “win-win solution” for the benefit of all parties.
“Let’s help each other achieve a win-win solution to benefit us all because the longer these Asin hydros will not operate, the more disadvantageous it will be for all of us,” the mayor said.
Domogan said the only way is to resolve the problem amicably.
“But if you prefer to bring this further to the court, the city is also ready to fight for its rights,” the mayor said.
Bentrez and the Tuba council urged the landowners to consider Domogan’s suggestion to send a representative to the city government to consult with the COA and negotiate with the city council.
They however assured the landowners that they will support their position not to allow the plants’ reoperation until the issues were resolved.
The Tuba town council approved on April 19 Resolution No. 34 supporting the opposition of the affected communities to the transfer of water permits from Baguio Water District to the city of Baguio and the intended revival of the operations of the Asin plants.
In the resolution, the body urged the Dept. of Energy (DOE) not to issue any permit to the city for the reoperation of the plants and to cancel the operating contract granted earlier to HEDCOR Inc.
The Tuba officials also asked the landowners to settle the issue of who will be the beneficiaries of the compensation based on the compromise agreement approved by the court in 2010.
As per the agreement, the city will compensate the landowners by way of rentals amounting to three percent of the net surplus from the operation of the mini-hydro plants subject to conditions that the rentals will be retroactive to year 2007 when the city assumed management of the plant; that the rentals will be subject to increase after three years; and that the rentals shall be payable to Tadiangan-Nangalisan Hydro Ancestral Landowners Association (TNHLA) which will assume the task of distributing the amount to the affected landowners.
As computed, the amount totaled P2,733,897.75 from 2007 to October 2012 when the city operations ceased.
By Aileen P. Refuerzo