SABANGAN, MT. PROVINCE : Indigenous people here stopped the construction of a 14-megawatt hydroelectric plant at Barangay Napua, fearing it would destroy their ancestral homes and pollute the environment.
The plant is a project of Hedcor Inc. that received a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the regional hearing office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on May 2, 2014.
The TRO was issued after the Napua Sabangan Guides Association (NSUGA) complained that Hedcor and Sta. Clara International Corporation used a flawed FPIC process that is a “gross violation of the law and must be stopped immediately.”
FPIC stands for free, prior and informed consent. It refers to the rights of indigenous peoples to participate in decision making on issues that affect them.
Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that “indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”
The complainants believe that Hedcor and Sta. Clara violated these rights.
“It appears that NSUGA would suffer grave and irreparable damage or injury and its economic activity would be affected if construction activities push through,” according to Brian Masweng, NCIP regional hearing officer.
The FPIC memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the indigenous peoples of Napua and Namatec calls on Hedcor “to prevent, mitigate or avoid disastrous ecological damages within the project area brought about by the construction of the hydro power plant.”
Likewise, the 25-year MOA between Hedcor and the Sabangan local government calls for the former to initiate measures “to protect and preserve the forest and water resources within the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality.”
NSUGA earlier filed a P55-million damage suit against Hedcor and Sta. Clara for violating the FPIC process, the destruction of cultural and historical sites, polluting the environment and other damages.
The erring parties were asked to settle the case on April 10, 2014 in accordance with customary practices but no agreement was reached.
Environmental advocates, including Bishop Renato Abibico of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Luzon who holds office at Tabuk, Kalinga and hails from Sabangan, has asked for a people’s forum with concerned Hedcor officials to discuss reported environmental and FPIC violations.