BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Some 500 Bugkalot tribesmen from three provinces have converged for a dialogue that turned into a bloody rally for three days now in front of an American firm in the far-flung village of Pelaway in Castañeda town as military and police authorities reportedly “harshly” intervened.
Officials of the Bugkalot Federation said their members from the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Aurora and Quirino are there to claim their share in the profits by the California Energy (CE) in its Casecnan water and energy facilities constructed in their ancestral domain.
California Energy (CE) Casecnan 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.
Robert Cabarroguis, spokesman for the Bugkalot Federation, said they are there supposedly to have a dialogue with the CE Casecnan officials regarding their share from the operation of the CMIPP irrigation “but they refused to talk to us.
“Instead, CE Casecnan has padlocked all entrances with more than 120 police and military personnel to drive us away, some of us have suffered wounds and bruises on our bodies,” he said.
Cabarroguis explained that the claim of their share as ancestral domain holder of Casecnan area is based on Section 7, Paragraph (b) of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
IPRA states in part for the ancestral domain owner “… to benefit and share the profits from allocation and utilization of the natural resources found therein . . . [and]to receive just and fair compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of the project.”
In August 1987, former President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order 136, which provides for the establishment of a Watershed Forest Reserve out of the Casecnan River. The reserve covered an area of 57,930 hectares.
By May 1993, former President Fidel Ramos sought out investors to fund the Casecnan Phase Transbasin Project. It became one of the flagship programs of the Ramos government and by 1995, the Casecnan Project got approved for construction.
In September 2001, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo finally opened the diversion tunnel after two years after the Phase I of the Casecnan project was done. In 2012, the Aquino government approved the construction of the second phase of the Casecnan project.
Leander C. Domingo