Apayao provincial government welcomes creation of multi-sectoral group on progress and development

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LUNA, Apayao – The provincial government of Apayao welcomes the creation of a Multi-sectoral Consultative Council (MCC) that aims to bring together all stakeholders working together towards a commitment to sustainable progress and development for the province.

The council will work on establishing transparency and a culture of feedback and dialogue among its people primarily on proposed hydro power projects which include the 150-megawatt (MW) Gened-1, as well as the Gened2, Calanasan and Aoan projects which are all in Apayao.

The municipalities of Pudtol and Calanasan agreed to form the council to serve as a consultative body with recommendatory functions, with Kabugao expected to follow suit. It will be tasked to look into the details of renewable energy project proposals and recommend modifications as needed.

The MCC will involve as many sectors and constituencies as possible in the discussion to ensure an enlightened and transparent FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent) process.

“In line with the government’s thrust to push for transparency, we welcome the council as we see their value in contributing to the inclusion and empowerment of our dear Y’apayaos.

This initiative allows their voices to be heard and contributes to a better understanding of the intricacies of the progress and development projects in Apayao,” Governor Eleanor Bulut-Begtang said.

“The opportunity to have regular dialogues will avoid misinformation, fake news, and unfounded fears about these projects,” she added.

According to a member of the council, confusion about the Gened-1 hydro power project over its extended 6-year FPIC process has created discord in the community.

This may have been avoided with the presence of a functioning body to help facilitate the process and make it easier for the elders of the indigenous peoples (IPs) to give their informed consent.

“We are aware that our IP elders, who sat in the project negotiation and who are tasked to make the decision to consent, are respected for their wisdom but they also value the sound advice of their elected leaders, the professionals and religious leaders on matters that are sometimes technical and complex subject matters such as the design and operation of dam projects.

The council will provide this support,” Hon. Rudy Castillo, the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Pudtol, said.

Y’apayaos can benefit further from the council’s creation since it will give the bigger community of the ancestral domain a voice and relevance in the negotiation and will erase doubts that consent was involuntarily given.

“Both the provincial government and the council have a common objective of pushing for the progress and development of Apayao and uplifting the quality of life for Y’apayaos.

We look forward to fruitful discussions and truthful information as we work towards a better Apayao,” Congressman Elias Bulut, Jr. said.

The 150-MW Gened-1 hydro power plant will be built in the municipalities of Kabugao and Pudtol over a five-year construction period covering 936m hectares or 1 percent of the total area in Kabugao.

Hydropower is seen as a critical source of renewable energy for the country as it moves to decarbonize the power sector.

Its flexibility and dependability allow for the integration of intermittent renewable energy sources into the grid.

The project’s proponents have designed a benefit-sharing program that would ensure local communities will benefit directly from the project even as it facilitates both local and national development.