Tribe pins hope on new leader for hydro project
AN INDIGENOUS people’s group from Northern Luzon expressed optimism that it could finally develop its own hydropower project straddling Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya provinces once presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte assumes office.
Members of the Bugkalot—an indigenous group inhabiting the provinces of Aurora, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya—are also hopeful that a new leadership in the Department of Energy (DOE) would finally heed their application to develop a 120 megawatt hydropower project that has languished under a private firm which originally bagged the service contract five years ago.
Bugkalot chieftain Rosario Camma, in a press statement, said as early as 2011, the Bugkalot requested the DOE not to award any service contract without the tribe’s consent. However, Camma said the energy department awarded the service contract to a private company which, until now, has not done any significant development in the area.
Camma, in the statement, said the service contract has been extended twice until the DOE terminated it in September 2015.
The tribe, however, is wary that the firm that bagged the service contract would apply for another extension “which is unacceptable.”
The Bugkalot tribe secured an injunction from the National Commission on Indigenous People, ordering DOE to cease implementing, renewing and extending the service contract for the proposed hydropower project site.
Camma, however, said current Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada might again renew the service contract without the indigenous people’s consent and without waiting for the new President’s assumption into office.
Citing the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA) in their application for a service contract with the DOE, Camma asserted his tribe’s ownership of resources within its ancestral domain. He added that that the Bugkalot Confederation, being the registered owner of the ancestral domain, has not given prior consent to the award of the service contract by the DOE to the private firm.
Camma, the overall chieftain of the Bugkalot community, has been constantly appealing for government support for the cultural minority’s economic well-being as enshrined in the Constitution.
“Our right to self-determination includes the right to develop our ancestral domain but how can we undertake development projects if we’re faced with constraints?” he said.
“This renewable project has been delayed for five years. We have been waiting for this for a long time,” says Camma.
“We want to develop our own resources with full control. This is for our tribal community and the next generations of Bugkalots. We hope this will finally happen under the leadership of our President Rodrigo Duterte,” Camma added.
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