KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Embattled complainants against the Coheco Badeo Corporation’s 500-megawatt pump storage project in barangay Badeo substantiated their allegations of reported aggressive campaigning to induce a positive approval of the project during the freedom period of their free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process over the past several months.
The concerned indigenous peoples (IP) leaders secured affidavits from their fellow IPs in the area confirming that some Coheco Badeo Corporation officials were allegedly involved in the prohibited acts of campaigning during the freedom period in violation of the 2012 revised guidelines in the conduct of FPIC for various development projects like the proposed pump storage hydro project in the remote village.
Earlier, the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) initially dismissed the petition of the concerned IPs that sought to revoke the results of the FPIC process for the ambitious project due to alleged serious violations by the proponent on existing FPIC guidelines, rules and regulations, one of which was the alleged premature campaigning during the freedom period.
Under the revised FPIC guidelines, the freedom period exists right after the conduct of the second community consultative assembly where the project proponent presents the merits of the project up to the time of the consensus building of the affected IPs where they will decide whether or not to support the project, thus among the prohibited acts is the premature campaigning by the proponent.
The sources claimed that based on the affidavit executed by some of the IPs, some officials of the Coheco Badeo Corporation went to various sitios of Badeo and invited influential elders and IPs, butchered pigs for their food and openly campaigned and solicited their support for the project prior to the scheduled consensus-building in the said barangay.
“We hope that the evidence we gathered from our sources on the ground will merit the consideration of the NCIP-CAR to give due course to our prayer for the nullification of the results of the FPIC process because there was blatant violation of the FPIC rules and regulations by the proponent,” the source stressed.
According to them, their crusade against the proposed pump storage project is not yet over because there are numerous IPs who have signified their willingness to help in their cause for the preservation and protection of their ancestral domain from destructive activities like the exploitation of their resources that will lead to the eventual destruction of the environment which is the source of their food and potable water supply.
The sworn affidavits of the witnesses were submitted by the petitioners to the NCIP-CAR office for evaluation and assessment and for possible reversal of the agency’s earlier decision dismissing the complaint of the concerned IPs and allow the conduct of a full blown hearing on the matter to ascertain the veracity of the alleged violations committed by the company in the conduct of the required FPIC process for its ambitious pump storage project that tends to threaten IP communities not only in Kibungan but also in Kapangan and Santol, La Union.