TABUK CITY, Kalinga – The Biga and Dallac Indigenous People (IP) tribes of Tabuk City signed a Community Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Karayan Hydropower Corporation and the NCIP-Kalinga, paving the way for the construction of the 52-megawatt (MW) Chico Run-of-River Hydropower Project.
The NCIP-Kalinga facilitated the 2-day MOA signing from February 28 to March 1 in Barangays Lucog and Amlao after a series of consultations and negotiations, as part of the process to obtain Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the IPs. FPIC is obtained from the IPs before any programs, activities, or projects are undertaken in their ancestral domains.
According to NCIP Provincial Officer Atty. Catherine Gayagay-Apaling, the Community MOA is a collective agreement approved by the IP community as a whole, which enables the developer to inspect the specific portion of the ancestral domain used for the project and identify affected landowners.
FPIC dissent, objections on dam construction
After the MOA signing, the City Local Government Unit (CLGU) received a letter from a group of Dallac IPs on March 2, seeking intervention. The letter stated that their land rights were not recognized, NCIP officials did not follow guidelines, and they were not informed about the MOA’s contents or the corresponding compensation for their ancestral lands that will be submerged by the project.
Another Dallac IP, who requested to remain anonymous, said she and other landowners are against the project due to insufficient education and awareness of its environmental impact on their lands, community, and future generations.
“Madi mi ah daytoy nga dam ta dakkel epekto na ti environment ken jay masakbayan ti next generation, ken haan da nga iexplain nga ustu nu kasanu ba daytoy nga structure, nu anya ti kangato na kada kadakkel na, ken nu anya ti extent ti epekto na ti environment”, the anonymous source said.
Atty. Apaling negated the complaints, stating that the NCIP-Kalinga rigidly followed the FPIC guidelines, as evidenced by their meetings and negotiations. She mentioned that they possess Resolutions of Consent (ROC) documents, signed by the IP elders prior to the MOA orientation on February 23 and 24, where all provisions under the MOA, including compensation and benefits for the community, were explained.
“May mga postings tayo prior to the meetings, we even sought the help of the barangay officials to help in the dissemination process. Naexplain tayo met jay MOA jay every provision idi orientation, and this is for the community only, sabalin tun jay individual land owners once the MOA is approved”, she clarified.
She explained that the MOA is one of the initial steps in the FPIC process before the actual dam construction, and they will meet and negotiate with the identified and affected landowners once it is approved.
“Daytoy MOA ket parte iti panagdawat ti developer ti consent ti community; tapnu makita da nu anya pangikabilan da jay structure ken maamwan da nu asino talaga agijay particular nga affected nga land owners, inggana awan FPIC da haan makasrek ti developer ijay ancestral domain, isu haan da nga matest jay site ta kailangan da ti pamalubos iti umili”, Apaling expounded.
Project profile explained
The 5.18 billion, 52 MW Chico River Hydropower Dam, which will be constructed in Brgy. Lucog is a project of Karayan Hydropower Corporation, a joint venture of San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders and Development Groups, Inc., and Union Energy Corporation. The project will utilize the natural flow of the Chico River to generate electricity through a “Run of River” method.
In 2018, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) granted the project its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), allowing the developer to proceed with the FPIC process. Negotiations began in 2018, but the project was suspended due to issues related to breaching NCIP’s FPIC process, which were attributed to its previous representative, Oscar Violago. The project has a 25-year contract, subject to renewal based on agreements with the IPs and government agencies involved.
Karayan’s representative, Engr. Jose Sylvestre Natividad assured that the company obtained the required permits and adhered to NCIP’s processes while remaining respectful and mindful of the rights and needs of the affected IPs. He said that they attended the MOA orientation to explain the project’s technicalities, indicating their commitment to transparent communication, meeting the IPs demands, and addressing any concerns.
Natividad explained that the government upholds the rights of IPs under IPRA law, and their team is currently present to continue the FPIC process to prevent any violations of guidelines and avoid repeating the previous representative’s mishaps.
Regarding environmental complaints on the project, he clarified that the issuance of their ECC assures EMB’s approval. He further addressed misconceptions about the dam being a free-flowing run-off-river dam, not an impounding dam, and its 52-megawatt power capacity, not 52 meters in height. He explained that the dam will have a 25-meter-high weir, with 10 meters submerged as its foundation and 15 meters visible as its height structure.
“Gone are the days that developers built impounding dams that were more harmful to the environment; we are concerned with the environmental aspect of the project, hence the proposed construction of a run-of-river dam,” he explained.
Engr. Natividad explained that the run-of-river method offers a significant advantage over impounding dams, as they do not require creating super-large reservoirs and have a smaller environmental impact as the water flows freely, reducing habitat destruction, flooding, effects on the local ecosystem, and water shortages in nearby communities.
Touting the project’s advantages, he stated that the hydropower dam will harness an affordable renewable energy source to address Kalinga’s skyrocketing electricity costs. It also fosters local employment opportunities within the IP community, boosts economic activity through the opening of access roads during the construction process, and increases tax revenue for the city and province, which will further support the growth and development of the locality.
Dam construction is a complex issue that comes with both advantages and disadvantages. It is crucial for all parties involved, including government agencies and local communities, to carefully evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of building a dam.
The community MOA is still pending approval from the NCIP regional and national offices, subject to a series of reviews and deliberations. Once approved, the specific provisions and agreements between Karayan, NCIP, and the IPS, as stipulated in the MOA, will be open for publication. By Ruth Cupang