BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Heavy downpour failed to dampen the resolve of 800 tribesmen of Bugkalot Indigenous Cultural Communities (BICC) holding protest actions at the Casecnan area here to demand their share of profits from the operation of power and irrigation project of an American firm.
BICC chieftain Rosario Camma said California Energy (CalEnergy) operates the Casecnan Water and Energy Project on their ancestral land and have not given them their due share in spite its earning billions of pesos for the past 15 years.
The Casecnan area is along the border of Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija.
Police provincial director Senior Supt. John Luglug said the tribesmen have encamped for 10 days now in front of California Energy (CalEnergy) project management office Pelaway village in Alfonso Castañeda town here.
The protesters arrived in the area on December 11 and police said some of them were able to enter CalEnergy premises while others have setup their tents outside the area for support.
“We will stay here for Christmas or even New Year if CalEnergy officials continue to ignore us,” Camma said.
Luglug said more than 120 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel were sent to Casecnan to maintain peace and order, in addition to a number of Philippine Army troopers in the area to provide additional security.
“We were told by the Bug¬kalot tribesmen that they will not leave the area unless CalEnergy officials give in to their demands,” Luglug said.
Not even the heavy rains brought by typhoon Nona the past days could stop the tribesman from demanding their long over due share from the American company.
“We will stay here for Christmas or even New Year if CalEnergy officials continue to ignore us,” BICC chieftain Rosario Camma said.
The Bugkalots, known as Ilon¬gots during their head-hunting era, live in the remote mountain tri-boundary of Nueva Vizcaya, Qui¬rino and Aurora. Their ancestral lands include the Casecnan project area.
Camma said that with CalEnergy’s utilization of their ancestral land, their share was stipulated under Administrative Order 248 signed by former President Fidel Ramos.
“Our share is also guaranteed under the Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA) as ancestral domain holder of the area where CalEnergy operates and thus the Bugkalots has the right to demand for what we own,” he added.
CalEnergy is the owner and operator of the giant $580-million Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP), a hydroelectric facility composed of two impounding dams and a power plant, connected by a pair of 26-kilometer tunnels from the Casecnan and Taan Rivers in Alfonso Castañeda town to Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija.
The project is the major source of irrigation for more than 300,000 hectares of farmlands in Central Luzon and some parts of Pangasinan.
Constructed during the Ramos administration through a 20-year build-operate-transfer deal with the American firm, the CMIPP generates some 100 megawatts of power for the Luzon grid.