KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Indigenous peoples (IP) leaders in the different parts of this municipality agreed to file a consolidated petition opposing the pending water rights application of Coheco Badeo Corporation over a huge portion of the historic Amburayan river for its 500-megawatt pump storage hydropower project in barangay Badeo because of the absence of consultations with the members of the ancestral domain affected by the project.
Reliable sources, who requested anonymity for security reasons, claimed the failure of the Korean-owned company to be transparent in its ambitious project in their domain and other neighboring domains in the province has now cast doubts on their capacity to seriously implement the project until it becomes fully operational since it is now evident that company officials are trying to hide their actions from the indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities who will be affected by the hydro project.
Further, the sources claimed the notice from the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) on the pending water rights application of Coheco Badeo Corporation was only posted in conspicuous places in the town proper while no such notice was provided to the barangay officials of Badeo, the main impact area of the proposed project, nor posted in the barangay.
“From the start, the hydropower project proponents had already the clear intention of taking advantage of the innocence of the people regarding the project as they even attempted to drill in some portions of the barangay even without consulting or asking permission from the affected land owners and securing the approval of concerned government agencies,” one of the sources stressed.
Second, the source revealed the various mind-conditioning and disinformation activities done by some company officials in various barangays of the municipality to justify their project even without the completion of the field-based investigation ordered by the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples with the intent to cut short the lengthy procedures in securing their free and prior informed consent (FPIC).
According to the other sources, the third attempt of the Coheco Badeo Corporation to mislead the people was the filing of water rights application with the NWRB without the affected people being consulted on the matter for them.
The sources were in agreement that if Coheco Badeo was able to hide from them their activities which they should have been first informed, it is also possible that after securing their FPIC and needed permits from government, the company officials will likely sell off the project for profit to another company that will not honor Coheco Badeo’s promises, thereby undermining the greater interest of the IPs in the villages to be affected by the project.
Some concerned residents in other barangays claimed a number of company officials have allegedly admitted to them that the supposed South Korean investor for the hydropower project sold his shares in a separate power corporation intending to operate a hydropower plant in a nearby town, thus, his ownership to the company was terminated following the lucrative sale that transpired.