TUBA, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IP) elders and barangays in the municipality reiterated their vehement opposition to the proposed rehabilitation of the Baguio-owned Asin mini hydro power plants that will be undertaken by the city government in partnership with a doubtful developer through the so-called public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
Sources from barangays Tadiangan and Nangalisan who opted not to be identified for fear of reprisal and harassment asserted that IP elders and barangay officials were never consulted by the Baguio City government on the proposed rehabilitation of the deteriorating hydro power plants that is why they are wondering why there are already alleged agreements that are being entered in their behalf for the ambitious project to push through.
“We will not allow anyone to develop the hydro plants without passing through the mandatory free, prior and informed consent pursuant to existing laws, rules and regulations. Our local officials cannot represent the elders and our barangay officials in negotiating with their counterparts from Baguio on the conditions that they want to be imposed for the project to push through,” an IP elder stressed.
For their part, some barangay officials also questioned the alleged profiling that had been previously conducted by personnel of the social welfare department which was allegedly aimed at determining the landowners to whom the city government will engage to allegedly endorse the said project.
According to them, landowners are not the only stakeholders in the affected communities that is why they are wondering why there were already alleged initial agreements that were reached without the expressed consent of the IP elders who are supposed to be the ones to give their consent to the project through the conduct of the FPIC that will be administered and supervised by the national Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
The tribal elders underscored that the city government does not own the land here some of the hydro plants are built and that city officials should not make unnecessary pronouncements that the people of Tuba support the such project when it is actually a reversal of sorts or part of the mind conditioning being employed by influential people just to cover their alleged hidden agenda on the said matter.
The IP leaders also raised an issue on the use of the personnel of the social welfare department to conduct profiling of the affected landowners in favor of the proponent of the rehabilitation of the Asin hydro plants which is in violation of existing laws and obvious conflict of interest that will open the floodgates for the filing of graft and corruption charges against those involved in the said endeavor.
The IP leaders and some barangay officials urged residents from the affected barangays to be vigilant on the activities being conducted within the premises of the Asin hydro power plants so that appropriate actions could be immediately done to stop whatever intent to pursue the rehabilitation of the power plants without passing through the mandatory FPIC process for all concerned stakeholders to impose their stringent conditions before any development will be done in the areas occupied by the said plants. Contributed article