KIBUNGAN, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) is currently scouting for a replacement of the head of the agency’s free and prior informed consent (FPIC) team before it will be able to schedule a special community consultative assembly (CCA) in barangay Badeo in relation to the proposed 500-megawatt pump storage project of the Coheco Badeo Corporation.
NCIP-CAR regional director lawyer Roland P. Calde said FPIC team leader lawyer Seferino Lumiqued was already relieved of his duties and responsibilities following numerous complaints on his alleged bias in favour of the proponents during the conduct of the previous community consultative assembly in the said barangay that serves as host for the project.
“We are still currently scouting for a replacement of our FPIC team leader before we will be able to schedule the conduct of the mandatory special community consultative assembly to put an end to the numerous issues being raised against the conduct of the previous assembly in Badeo. We are being prodded by the proponent to immediately schedule the conduct of the assembly but we have yet to ascertain who will be the head of our FPIC team,” Calde stressed.
The NCIP-CAR official said that the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Badeo will be invited to actively participate in the special community consultative assembly for them to air their views and have their votes counted whether or not to allow the project to push through.
Earlier, the NCIP-Car was able to uncover alleged discrepancies in the conduct of the previous community assemblies because the proponents failed to present to the barangays the economic benefits of the project and that the assemblies were even allegedly railroaded.
According to him, the FPIC head should be a lawyer or a chief of office of the agency pursuant to the qualifications enshrined in the FPIC guidelines crafted by the agency for the said purpose.
Concerned Badeo IPs claimed that the previous FPIC team leader allegedly manipulated the FPIC results in the said barangay because he facilitated the conduct of voting by the pre-selected members of the Council of Elders amidst the clamor of the participants of the assembly for the casting of votes whether or not they are in favour of the project.
The IPs also complained that during the selection of the composition of the Council of Elders, those who were identified to be against the project were allegedly excluded from being a member of the council and that barangay officials who were in favour of the project were the ones that were considered for the composition of the council.
The sources want the NCIP-CAR not to succumb to the alleged machinations being done by the management of Coheco Badeo Corporation in the selection of the next FPIC team and the schedule of the special assembly considering that it should be the greater interest of the IPs that should be considered in deciding whether or not to support the environmentally-critical project that could result to the massive displacement of IPs from their ancestral domain.
Further, other IPs in Kapangan and Santol, La Union should be consulted by the company and for them to give their consent before any negotiations for whatever agreement will be done but no agreement should be crafted unless the IPs in all the affected domains shall have given their consent.