BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Bugkalot tribesmen have expressed dismay saying government agencies gave the “cold shoulder” over their claim of share in the Casecnan dam operations.
For the fifth day now with makeshift tents in front of California Energy (CE) Casecnan in Pelaway, Castañeda town, the more than 500 tribesmen said they will not leave until they get a clear response from the company of their stake to their share from the Casecnan Dam.
The Bugkalot Federation officers said they are dismayed by the response from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) when they asked for the agency’s intervention in their desire to peacefully dialogue with CE Casecnan.
The NCIP is the government agency responsible for addressing issues and concerns of the country’s indigenous peoples.
”What we are getting from the government agencies which we expect to assist us is their cold shoulder on the issues we are fighting for,” said Robert Cabarroguis, spokesman for the Bugkalot Federation.
In a message, NCIP regional officials said it can only offer legal services in the ongoing proceedings regarding their claim and for persons who might be arrested for activities considered illegal against the property or personnel of Casecnan.
The NCIP has also advised them to “consider the idea of alternative demands like the funding of the Bugkalot ADSDPP [Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Plan Program] or other community projects.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Rosario Camma of Nagtipunan, Quirino who is also the over all chieftain of the Bugkalot Federation for the three provinces said he received a telephone call from National Irrigation Administration Director Manuel Galvez for Region 2 to “calm down.”
Camma said Galvez has given an assurance that the NIA will sit down with CE Casecnan officials to discuss and find a possible solution to the issue.
However, Galvez said he is yet to read the Bugkalot Federation’s demands.
For his part, House of Representative Deputy Speaker Carlos Padilla, congressman of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya, said the government hopefully can come up with a win-win solution on the Casecnan issue.
”I find the Bugkalots’ gripes true and valid. [It] must be viewed by authorities with genuine concern,” Padilla said.
Last year, the Bugkalot Federation has filed their claim with the NCIP and have undergone several hearings and dialogues with the CE Casecnan, NIA and NCIP; two meetings in Muñoz in Nueva Ecija, two in Cabanatuan City, three in Tuguegarao City and one in Malacañang.
As Ancestral Domain holder of Casecnan area, the claim of the Bugkalot tribe is based on Section 7, Paragraph (b) of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
The IPRA law states for the tribe “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.”
CE Casecnan owns and runs the giant $580-million Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project, a hydroelectric facility composed of two impounding dams and a power plant, connected by a pair of 26-kilometer tunnels.