KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Majority of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Tacadang are now up in arms against their –re-selected elders for allegedly not respecting their clamor for the outright rejection of the proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project by the controversial Coheco Badeo Corporation and instead insisted in favouring the ambitious project that tend to displace thousands of their colleagues in the areas to be affected.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from vindictive elders and some former politicians aligned with the project proponent, disclosed that instead of upholding the written concensus of the IPs from sitios Dalipey, Culiang, Les-eng, Lingey, Batangan and Tacadang proper against the proposed project, the elders disregarded their no vote and decided to put in record their favourable vote for the project which seems to be a pre-arranged consensus on their part.
The concerned IPs expressed disappointment to the actuations of their pre-selected elders who are supposed to uphold their rights over their ancestral domain but now, they seem to be in cahoots with a developer with questionable reputation that could actually result to the non-recognition of their rights once the project will push through.
“We do not know who will protect our rights from the potential abuses that will be done by the project proponent because our pre-selected elders seem to be in conspiracy to the project proponent which has a history of securing the consent of IPs and then selling their consent thereby enriching themselves at our expense and depriving us of our rights over our ancestral domain,” the sources stressed.
The sources narrated that during their scheduled consensus-building last week, they brought their written opposition to the proposed hydro project with the belief that the elders will recognize the consensus of the IPs pursuant to their customary laws but instead of upholding their opposition to the project, their elders disregarded their opposition and instead pursued to put on record their favourable vote for the project which elicited a negative response from the affected IPs.
According to the sources, it is unfair to the majority of the IPs just to disregard a documented opposition to the project compared to the verbal votes of the elders favouring the project, thus, they are seeking the assistance of responsible municipal and provincial officials who will fight for their rights over their ancestral domain to spare their domain from being ravaged and their rights from being trampled upon by enterprising foreign investors who partnered with former politicians to eventually rape their domain, reap the fruits of their efforts to preserve and protect their domain and earn millions at their expense while they will continue to suffer from the serious negative effects of the project, especially their displacement from their lands that they have tilled since time in memorial.
The concerned IPs challenged the cause-oriented groups to come to their rescue now that their rights are being trampled upon to make the proponent feel that they will not just be a pushover since they want to protect their domain from eventual damage by the ambitious project that is planned in their neighboring barangay.