>> Monday, December 24, 2007
TUBA, Benguet – Residents here said the Baguio City government was illegally operating the controversial power plants saying they would exhaust all legal options to compel the latter to pay for the use of their lands where the hydros were located or traversed or evict the electricity-producing facilities.
The Tadiangan-Nangalisan Hydro Ancestral Landowners Association, composing at least 50 members, said the city government also didn’t have an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) from the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources to operate the plants. Roger Sinot, TNHALA president said the city also didn’t have a Certificate of Clearance (COC) from the Energy Regulatory Commission pursuant to implementing rules of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act also known as Republic Act 9136 of 2001.
Aside from this, Sinot said the city government also didn’t have “Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to operate the plants. The IRR states that “no person or entity may engage in the generation of electricity unless such person or entity has received a COC from ERC to operate facilities used in the generation of electricity.”
Sinot also said the provincial civil registrar’s office was due to issue a certification the city government didn’t have papers to prove it owned the lots where the power plants were sitting or traversed. “What is surprising is the municipal civil registrar’s office of Tuba did not want to issue a certification that the city government didn’t have legal papers over the lots.” A task force created by Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan headed by provincial board member Nardo B. Cayat had found out the Baguio City government didn’t have legal papers to prove it owned the lots where the power plants were located.
Mayor Florencio Bentrez and all Tuba councilors except Blas Dalus were castigated by the TNHALA last week for coming up with a consensus that they would affirm the stand of the Baguio City government on the matter. Councilors who reportedly relied on the stand of the Baguio government to settle the issue were: Adora Paus, Cris Akia, Veronica Apil, Dick Belting, Zaldy Guileng, Pedro Esteban, Clarita Sal-ongan and Jerome Palaoag.
Last Tuesday, Tuba town employees said the council including Bentrez didn’t hold session but “went down to the beach” purportedly to discuss the issue.
Sinot said the TNHALA as early as Jan. 4 agreed to “file a petition and the issuance of a temporary restraining order and preliminary mandatory injunction against the city of Baguio for the stoppage of its unwanted takeover of the said hydro plants which are within the ancestral domain of Tuba, Benguet.”
“The city of Baguio for a long time has benefited from the resources of Benguet, particularly Asin in this case,” Sinot said. “The land claimants now pray that no repetition of exploitation as experienced in the past will ever come out between the two sister communities, where one enriches itself out of the resources of another.”
He added they have sent a series a letters to the city government to act on their demands but the letters were not answered. He said the city government again violated a law that provides all communications to government offices should be answered within 15 days.
Sinot said they are due to take legal action as their demands were not being met. Among others, these included free irrigation for their farms and fishponds, rentals retroactive for at least 10 years, scholarships for deserving children, free streetlights in barangays where hydros are located and computers for elementary schools near the plants. The TNHALA’s 30-day ultimatum for the city government of Baguio to vacate the Asin Hydroelectric Plants here lapsed on Dec. 12. Sinot said the TNHALA) is set to file a case with the NCIP to make the city government cease and desist from using the power plants until it would pay for the use of the lands.
Baguio City Administrator Peter Fianza said he would wait for the action of the city mayor’s office or the city council before he would give a response to the TNHALA on the matter. Sinot said they had been asking the city government in letters to come up with a response but these were “seemingly being ignored. This made TNHLA members shut down valves leading to Plant 1 early this month which supplied water to the power plants.”
Baguio officials said the city lost income of P144,000 when the plants were shut down. The Benguet Electric Coop. is buying power from the city for the use of the Asin plants. There are three plants composing the power system. Plant I currently produces 700 kwh per hour or P3,000 per hour in terms of monetary equivalent. – Alfred Dizon