The singer not the song

>> Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ramon Dacawi

It’s a no-no a journalist worth his salt should never commit. It’s something I did, rather, did not do last week, in violation of what I’ve learned and have been mouthing before journalism students: To be complete, the news story must answer the who, what, when, where, why and how. Especially the who if he’s/ she’s the source of your story
Dissuading them from turning into “envelopmental” journalists, I’d advise them to avoid adding “how much to the five Ws and one H”.
My own sin of omission is about a recent judgment of the Regional Trial Court which I found truly incisive and impressive, to the point I digested the arguments raised in the decision, quoting them in the story, yet forgetting who wrote and issued the judgment.  
Time and again, we’re reminded, “it’s the singer, not the song”. Yet I read the sound decision to the beat of a song and forgot who penned it when I wrote the story.
My apologies to RTC Judge Jennifer Humiding who issued the 13-page decision last July 19. It was a case filed by Hedcor (Hydroelectric Corp.) Kabayan accusing the Benguet Electric Cooperative of “interfering with or influencing the on-going Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process with the Indigenous Cultural Communities or Indigenous Peoples of Kabayan, Benguet and violating the exclusive rights of Hedcor as Renewable Energy Developer of Kabayan II hydro power generation project”.
The court, however, upheld the Kabayan people’s right of having sought  advice from Beneco on the Hedcor power project.  In short, the court pointed out that indigenous cultural communities  (like those in the Cordillera where Hedcor or the Aboitiz Group of Companies has established water rights over many rivers for its hydropower development) have all the right to seek all information regarding proposals to set up hydroelectric plants within their river resources.
“The IP’s/ ICC’s access to all information affecting their interest should be guaranteed by the diversity of the sources and means of information available, thus enabling them to check the accuracy or facts and to appraise data, scheme and proposals objectively consistent with a laissez faire approach to the regulation of speech and expression,” the court pointed out.
Hedcor Kabayan earlier filed for injunction and damages, alleging that Beneco was influencing the FPIC and “violating the rights of Hedcor as renewable energy development of Kabayan II hydro power generation project…”
Earlier, the Onjon ni Kasikuran Shi Kabayan (ONKASKA), composed of indigenous peoples of Kabayan, passed Resolution 4-2015 allowing Beneco to conduct a detailed engineering and design study for Agno I and Agno 2 within the ancestral domain of Kabayan along the Agno River.
The Kabayan Sangguniang Bayan endorsed the Onjon resolution. Subsequently, the Kabayan Liga ng mga Barangay also adopted a resolution asking the Department of Energy to consider the application of Beneco for hydropower development for the Nalatang River within the municipality.
Because of its ramifications to the issue of Cordillera autonomy, this issue should be well in the focus of the Cordillera Regional Development Council and the National Economic Development Authority in their push for autonomy. It is an issue that may well be be a springboard towards acceptance of self-rule, if only we can let the people see how autonomy can empower them to have jurisdiction over their water and mineral resources.  

It’s high-time for the two bodies to request the Department of Energy and the National Electrification Administration to suspend the issuance of permits to private energy developers for Cordillera river and energy resources while our region is still struggling whether to become autonomous or not.
It’s high time for the Cordillera, too, to ask the National Water Resources Board to stop issuing water rights to energy developers, at the expense of host communities who never laid legal rights over these river systems that they have been nurturing for generations, only to find themselves at the mercy of outsiders who are instantly given rights over these resources. It’s also high-time for this issue of access to energy and natural resources to be made a rallying point in the information campaign for autonomy. 
Although it may sound redundant, it would be right and relevant, as my fellow Cordilleran Vic Sapguian said, to include this provision on the organic act for autonomy: “All permits for mining and exploitation of the Cordillera’s natural resources, including water rights and energy development, should be issued by the Cordillera regional government, not the national government.”
This would-be provision is what the people, like those of Kabayan and other Cordillera communities, whose water resources are being exploited by outside developers, would like to be firmly established in the organic act for self-rule. Otherwise, the bill, the third to be sent to Congress, would be as toothless as the former acts which were rejected. ( e-mail; for comments).


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