Operator of Benguet hydropower plants gets notice of violation
BAGUIO CITY—The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in the Cordillera issued this week a notice of violation to the company operating three hydroelectric power plants in Benguet province for its “unauthorized and unlawful intrusion” into an ancestral domain.
In the June 7 notice, lawyer Marlon Bosantog, director of NCIP in the Cordillera, told Hedcor Inc. that its continuous operation of power plants in Bakun town has “no legal justification” because of the objection of the tribal communities in the area.
Bosantog said Hedcor has been violating the rights of the indigenous people (IP) of Bakun to their ancestral domain under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra).
He said the NICP would be forced to issue a cease-and-desist order (CDO) to Hedcor should the company fail to address its violations within 10 days.
In May, Bosantog directed Hedcor to return to the Bakun IPs the parcels of land being occupied by its power plants.
Bosantog said a resolution of nonconsent issued by Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organizations (Bito) and town elders last month prevents Hedcor from continuously operating its hydropower plants in their ancestral land.
Impact on supply
Since 1991, Hedcor has been running the Labay and Lon-oy hydroelectric power plants in Barangay Poblacion and the Ferdinand L. Singit plant in the villages of Poblacion and Sinacbat. These plants have a combined capacity of at least 12 megawatts.
Leo Lungay, Hedcor vice president for operations and maintenance, said they respected the decision of Bosantog to issue the notice of violation.
In his June 10 letter to Bakun Vice Mayor Edward Buscol, Lungay said they would coordinate with the NCIP to address the issue within the prescribed period, stressing their “sincere desire” to resolve the dispute with the Bakun tribal community.
Gov. Melchor Diclas said he recognized the right of the IPs to their ancestral land but opposed calls to shut down the power plants, as it would “negatively impact the power supply in the country.”
“We do not want that to happen,” Diclas said, adding that the IP communities and Hedcor must peacefully resolve their differences.
He said the province also had a responsibility to the national government to provide uninterrupted supply of electricity to the Luzon grid.
The three Hedcor hydropower plants in Bakun supply Advent Energy Inc., a power distributor that caters specifically to economic zones in Luzon.
Diclas offered his help to ensure that the people of Bakun would get their “fair share” of Hedcor’s revenues.
Mario Morales, chair of Bico, who spoke during the June 1 dialogue, said their call for Hedcor’s closure was triggered by the company’s refusal to increase the profit share for the communities.
The 1991 memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Bakun municipal government and Hedcor stipulated a 2-percent municipal share and 1-percent share for the host villages. It expired in 2017.
Morales said the tribes would only enter into a new MOA with Hedcor if their profit share was raised.
The local government also complained of “unacceptable share offer” from Hedcor, said Councilor Mark Bayawan, who heads the town council’s committees on environment and agriculture.
He said local officials dropped their initial demand for a 25-centavo-per-kilowatt-hour share to 12 centavos but Hedcor would only give 1.25 centavos per kWh despite its high revenues for producing an average of 55 million kWh a year. INQ
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