Bombing of Hedcor’s Sabangan hydro looms

>> Thursday, October 26, 2017

Alfred P. Dizon

SABANGAN, Mountain Province – Sooner or later, if Hedcor won’t watch out, its hydro plant here could be bombed by the armed men who bombed the power firm’s facility in adjacent Bauko town Oct. 10.  
               The perpetrators, purportedly New People’s Army rebels belonging to the Leonardo Pacsi Command accused Hedcor of undermining the proper Free Prior Information Consent conducted in 2011 by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
They said surrounding communities were not included who similarly have the right to their ancestral land and watershed.   
Here in adjacent Sabangan, despite opposition posed by indigenous people of its ancestral domain and complainant Melchor Bao-idang, Jr., the National Water Resources Board and Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources reportedly granted the petition of Hedcor Sabangan, Inc. for increase of allowable maximum volume of water under water permit no. 022982 which was originally not to exceed 814.95 liter per second
               The ruling by NWRB-DENR through resolution passed on Aug. 23 and transmitted Sept. 27 read: “The protest filed by the Indigenous Peoples of the Ancestral Domain of Sabangan, represented by Noela Paredes and Camilo Luken and one private complainant, Melchor Bao-idang, are hereby denied for lack of merit, While the petition for increase in allowable Maximum Volume of Water granted under water permit 022982 filed by Hedcor Sabangan, Inc. is hereby Granted with the following terms and conditions: a, If the available flow is greater than or equal to  7,108 liter per second(LPS), the maximum diverted flow is 6,895 LPS. B.If the available flow is less than 7,108 LPS, the flow to be diverted is equal to the available flow less 213 LPS (Environmental Flow) c. If the available flow is less than or equal to 345 LPS (turbine requirement) no water diversion is allowed.
According to protesting parties, NWRB gave weight to contentions of Hedcor through their submitted documents without conducting ocular inspection for validation of issues raised.
They said the government bodies and Hedcor disregarded issues raised by protesters on FPIC process done by NCIP without notice to and participation of elders and leaders of 13 barangays of Sabangan other than Namatec and Napua.
Protesters said there was no consent given by the entire domain of Sabangan on granting of water permit, more so to petition for increase.
“It is deceitful on the part of Hedcor to apply for increase in allowable maximum volume of water without consulting the elders and leaders of the entire domain,” they said in a statement.
“The interest of the entire domain was not considered therefore, benefitting barangays Namatec and Napua only.  Increase in the volume of water allowed to be harnessed by Hedcor should also redound to the benefit of the entire domain covering 15 barangays.  Hedcor violated the terms of its permit when, without obtaining the consent of the entire domain and without securing the necessary permit, it diverted water in excess of the allowed maximum volume of water.”
Noela Paredes said the FPIC was not issued for the water permit of Hedcor not only because of lack of consultation with all elders and leaders of the Sabangan ancestral domain but for the fact that it violated Section 59 of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, which reads: "Sec. 59. Certification Precondition.- all department and other governmental agencies shall henceforth be strictly enjoined from issuing, renewing, or granting any concession, license or lease, or entering into any production-sharing agreement, without prior certification from the NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain. Such certificate shall only be issued after a field-based investigation is conducted by the Ancestral Domain Office of the area concerned: Provided, That no certificate shall be issued by the NCIP without the free and prior informed and written consent of the ICCs/IPs concerned: Provided, further, That no department, government agency or government-owned or -controlled corporation may issue new concession, license, lease, or production sharing agreement while there is pending application for CADT: Provided, finally, That the ICCs/IPs shall have the right to stop or suspend, in accordance with this Act, any project that has not satisfied the requirement of this consultation process."
Parades said, “The indigenous people of Sabangan are hopeful for a proper FPIC where all elders/leaders of the entire Sabangan ancestral domain are consulted so that the NWRB and the other concerned agencies will explain the implications of granting water permit to HEDCOR as they were told that a water permit is a perpetual permit as no time limit was indicated.”  
“They would like to know the maximum benefits allowable by law which they could get in exchange for the permit as they understand that the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) allows them to negotiate for more benefits other than the mandatory benefits in the energy law and related laws.  Documentation of the NCIP FPIC process mentioned by Hedcor showed these issues/concerns were not discussed nor presented to the indigenous people of barangays Napua and Namatec.”
Paredes said “should NWRB have granted their request for an FPIC or consultations among the indigenous communities, this would have given Hedcor the opportunity to a genuine and sincere dialogue with its host indigenous community for more than 20 years, the remaining period of its 25 year contract with the Dept. of Energy that would redound to peaceful prosperity for both parties concerned. What happened is only DOE sought NCIP certification precondition hence the FPIC process. NWRB should have also sought certification precondition, separately, from NCIP so that NCIP will require NWRB to explain to the indigenous people of Sabangan the meaning and the negative and positive implications and impact as well as benefits of a water permit.”
She said they are contemplating to make an appeal on the decision because they are not giving up their fight for the sake of the future generations.
               “It is very sad however to think  that the municipal officials and barangay officials were properly informed and yet they submitted resolutions expressing their full support for the maximum operation of the hydropower plant which was used by Hedcor to convince NWRB for their petition and wantonly set aside our arguments.” Paredes added.
As for Bao-idang, he complained that his three parcels of land along the riverbank were affected by the diversion of water by Hedcor. He said excessive intake of water made the creek dry especially during summer, and, that he was not compensated.
On Dec. 1, 2016,  Hedcor was reportedly penalized in an order passed by NWRB –DENR for extracting water beyond the amount granted under their water permit which is 814.95 LPS.
The meted penalty is P1,000 per day of violation which was computed to P405,000. Local folks said Hedcor was in violation for more than a year since they started their operation. Had it not been reported by the protestants to the NWRB-DENR who went to investigate the said violation, Hedcor could have got away with it and continue short-changing the government unnoticed, they said in a statement.

Hedcor’s facility at Sitio lukong, Otucan Norte, Bauko, that serves as tapping point was bombed by heavily armed men on Oct. 10, at around 10 p.m., a few days after the transmittal of NWRB's ruling on Hedcor’s water permit. 


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