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PRRD asked to review Gened I dam, impact on Kabugao IPs

OLD CAPITAL. Kabugao was once the capital of Apayao, but the administrative capital of the province was transferred to Luna, for fear that it will be inundated once Gened I and other dams will be constructed along the mighty Apayao River, the lifeblood of the Apayao people, also called the river people of the Cordillera.

Oppositionists to the construction of the 150 megawatt Gened I renewable energy dam in Kabugao, Apayao called on President Rodrigo Duterte to review the impact of the proposed Gened I hydroelectric power plant while denouncing the memorandum of agreement signed with the proponent.

This even as the proponent sees that its construction will improve the lives of the indigenous peoples in the community.

A letter complaint has been filed before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples – Cordillera while a similar letter was sent to the president to stop the construction of the Gened I Hydropower Project by PanPacific Renewable Power Phils. Corp. (PPRPPC).

PPRPPC signed a MOA with the Isnag Indigenous Cultural Communities representing 22 barangays in Kabugao last April 20, to proceed with the project and is now the subject for review by the NCIP – Cordillera.

The letters seeks to nullify the MOA signed by PPRPPC and the IP groups for “blatant violations of the provisions under (the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act) IPRA law and a deceitful consensus building.”

The letter complaint filed before the NCIP alleged that two resolutions passed earlier this year wherein the IPs turned down the proposed dam construction were not respected, one of which was due to technicality.

The letter complaint filed by six elderly IPs of Kabugao said that there was no free prior, informed consent. While the NCIP – Cordillera did call for a consultation last March 18 and a secret balloting was undertaken, it was done despite the opposition of the IPs concerned.

The letter alleged the NCIP had its pre-selected IP leaders/elders who were given a sum of money to influence their decision in favor of the PPRPPC proposed project.

A second consultation done on April 7 was instead the presentation of the MOA leading to signing by the IP representatives from the 22 affected barangays on April 21, which they said was a violation since they were not given at least a month to deliberate on said MOA.

The letter complaint asked NCIP to ban the said project and other planned dams within the Apayao River in the future.

In a May 3 letter to Duterte where the letter complaint to NCIP was attached as well as the resolutions passed earlier this year in opposition to the dam, the Isnag Indigenous Peoples of Kabugao, Apayao reiterated their stand.

It read: “Since the beginning of consultations in 2014 up to now, we have rejected the proposed construction of Gened-1 dams and all other subsequent dams of the proponent.”

While they say that the IPRA law was violated and the presence of biased NCIP regional and provincial directors, there was also “undue influence of our elective national and local provincial officials surreptitiously and deceitfully manipulated the signing of and approval of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) purportedly between us IPs and the proponent, PPRPPC.”

The Isnag IPs of Kabugao added: “That purported MOA was never explained and understood by us IPs as provided by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts (IPRA).

A manifesto signed by the IPs of Kabugao called on the president “to study the cultural impact of the proposed PPRPPC dams on the affected highlanders of Apayao,…”

They also called on the NCIP, the proponent and some cabinet officials “to cease from appearing to rail-road the proposed dam projects because the affected people cannot be easily taken for granted in this sensitive and critical issue only because they are members of a peaceful cultural minority in our country.”

“This project will give nothing to us but destruction and my final answer is NO”, said Warling Maludon, an elder from Barangay Waga and one of the signatories to the letter complaint to NCIP – Cordillera and the letter to the president.

Meanwhile, affidavit of retractions were filed by some of the signatories of the April 20 MOA.

Two elders in their affidavit of retractions last April 23 said “we did not understand the MOA we signed.”

The two barangay Bulu residents added they are retracting their approval because “we vehemently are opposed to the construction of Gened I dam that will submerge our residences and barangays.”

Same affidavits were filed by signatories from barangays Madatag, Waga, Laco, Magabta and Poblacion of Kabugao. The dam is to rise in barangay Waga.

In a release this week, the proponent said “only nine barangays – Waga, Bulu, Luttuacan, Cabetayan, Badduat, Nagbabalayan, Poblacion, Magabta and Laco – will be affected in Kabugao by this project. Accordingly, only one percent of the 93,512 hectare area of Kabugao will be affected.”

“I believe the resources within our ancestral domains have potential, and should be utilized so it could uplift the living conditions of our residents,” John Amid, Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) for the Municipality of Kabugao, was quoted as saying in signing the MOA.

Among the benefits from the dam, Amid said, will be provision of jobs and other sustainable livelihood, enterprise development, health care and environmental conservation.

The Isnag IP includes royalty share from the power plant’s actual generation; compensation for affected houses and affected farmers; Yearly Educational and Medical subsidy for 25 years of P2Million/year; and Livelihood and skills training; and other opportunities for them.

PPRPPC will also give priority to the host community in the employment of at least 500 locals for the construction of powerplant alone.

Amid claimed there was social acceptability among the IPs who gave their free, prior informed consent to the proponent “following the right process, before the concerned IPs of affected barangays–which represent the majority of the communities–signed the MOA with the proponent.”

The proponent said that once “completed, the 150MW Renewable Hydropower project plant is also expected to provide reliable, renewable and low-cost energy not only to the host community and affected barangays where it is will supply Clean Energy to power entire Kabugao and Pudtol area but also to the entire nation as the country transitions to more sustainable sources of energy.”

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