SENATOR Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian on Monday urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to exercise its mandate to resolve the issues surrounding the impending shutdown of operations of three hydroelectric power plants in Benguet province.
“At a time when there’s a threat of yellow and red alerts in the power supply, we have to make sure that all plants are up and running especially now that we’re in the middle of a global health crisis,” Gatchalian said reacting on reports about the cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Cordillera to Hedcor Inc.
Hedcor Inc., operator of Labay, Lon-oy and F.L. Singit hydropower plants in Bakun town, Benguet, have been given five days to wind down their operations following the issuance of the CDO last June 22. The order to stop operations stemmed from alleged issues in obtaining consent from indigenous tribes, particularly the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization (BITO).
Under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), project developers can only acquire permits and licenses upon the issuance of the Certification Precondition (CP) by the NCIP which proves consent from the indigenous community where the project will be situated.
“While the issue confronting Hedcor Inc. and the indigenous communities are legal in nature, I implore the NCIP and DOE to work out a possible solution,” Gatchalian said.
Naiintindihan ko na may kaakibat na isyung sumasaklaw sa mga karapatan ng mga kababayan nating mga IPs sa usaping ito. Ngunit mabigat din ang usaping kinakaharap sa pagpapasara ng mga plantang ito na isa sa mga pinagkukunan ng suplay ng kuryente ng mga nasasakupang lugar sa halos tatlong dekada na. Sana ay magkaroon ng resolusyon na katanggap-tanggap sa mga kinauukulan sa lalong madaling panahon,” the senator added.