IP’s rights in proposed power plant project spelled out

Provincial

KIBUNGAN BENGUET – Members of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) group in Barangay Madaymen, Kibungan Benguet were informed of their rights as IPs during the First Community Assembly (FCA) conducted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on June 26.

Attorney Severino Lumiqued, NCIP-Benguet provincial legal officer, said that as the lead agency who oversees the rights of the IPs, the conduct of the FPIC process is a must to inform or educate members of the IP group who will be affected by the project.

“This is the time where the community is given the opportunity to raise their concerns about their rights to their land, the natural resources within their domain, job employment, social services including the community’s share from the taxes,” he said.

The FCA is a component of the on-going Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process on the proposed 500 megawatt pumped storage hydro power plant in this municipality proposed by Korean company Coheco-Badeo. The electricity produced by the hydro plant will serve as back-up during maintenance shutdown of major power producers. This project is located in Barangay Badeo, 31 kilometers in aerial distance from Baguio City.

The NCIP explained that while the project will be in Barangay Badeo, the villages of Tacadang, Palina, Sagpat, Lubo, Poblacion and Madaymen must be informed and their consent obtained through the PIC process as mandated under the Indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA).

Lumiqued, however, said “before all these benefits, their right to agree or disagree in any proposed project, weather such will affect them or not as long as members of the community,” must first be put in place.

“It will be very difficult for them to decide without the FPIC,” he added.

Aside from the community being heard, the proponent is also given the opportunity to present their project and plans and to answer queries of the people, which information will also be a factor in the community’s decision making process.

Lumiqued, however, clarified that the decision to approve the project and allow the use of the ancestral domain will come after the proponent has complied with all the necessary documents and permits like the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Department of Energy (DoE) registrations and service contract.

To encourage all the residents to join the assembly, Lumiqued said the NCIP posted invitations in different areas of the barangay to inform them of the activity, and give them the opportunity to be heard and inquire.

“This way they become knowledgeable on their rights as IP host community.”

During the assembly that lasted until the evening, 13 elders and community leaders were selected to help inform other residents about the project. Their role is to represent the entire barangays during the whole duration of the FPIC process. They will also serve as mouthpiece of information to educate the whole community.

Aside from Barangay Madaymen, Badeo and Tacadang earlier had their First Community Assembly last June 14 and 20, respectively. Barangays Sagpat and Poblacion will have the FCA next week.

Kibungan, the host municipality, has a population of 17,292 based on the 2015 survey. Madaymen has the biggest population at 5,345 while the host Barangay Badeo has 894. DIONISIO DENNIS JR./PNA / ABN