The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) during its Commission En Banc (CEB) meeting last Tuesday here deferred to grant the Certification Precondition (CP) application of Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corporation (PPRPPC) for its proposed 150 megawatt GENED Dam I project that is projected to rise within the ancestral domains of the Isnag Indigenous Peoples of both Kabugao and Pudtol.
After hours of deliberation between and among the 7-Ethnographic Commissioners during the 8th NCIP – CEB, the granting of the CP was deferred due to irregularities in the conduct of the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process
Isnag IP Alexis Lappas, a participant of the deliberation, said that there were inconsistencies in the observance of the FPIC process as enshrined in the prevailing NCIP Administrative Order of 2012.
This, Lappas said, casted a cloud of doubt as to the supposed consent from the affected Isnag communities in Apayao that caused the deferral of the CP application during said Commission En Banc meeting.
Lappas said that the proposed 150 MW dam was already rejected three times, but these were overturned through a “series (of) clandestine maneuvering” by some “individuals under the watchful eye of the NCIP.”
Lappas noted that the first rejection to the proposed dam was overturned in a hotel in Tugegarao City which is outside of their ancestral domain “ the strict prohibition of the FPIC guidelines not allowing activities outside the Ancestral Domain.”
Lappas added that this prompted the Isnag communities on September of 2019 to register their second rejection of the project and set aside the Tugegarao decision.
But in December 2019, municipal Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) John Anthony Amid organized an unannounced activity that took place at barangay Badduat in Kabugao where the second rejection of the Isnag IPs was overturned, said Lappas.
Lappas said that IPMR’s unannounced activity “led to the constitution of the authorized elders/leaders which they, along with their fellow oppositors, questioned before the NCIP Commission En Banc.”
“We questioned the authority of the ‘so-called’ authorized elders/leaders because we don’t recall any assemblies from our barangays or activities called for the purpose. Most of our fellow Isnags don’t recall signing any community resolutions delegating our authority or right to consent, negotiate and sign documents to a selected few,” said Lappas.
Lappas said the elders/leaders were handpicked and a mere creation by few individuals during the December 2019 IPMR activity and “did not emanate from the customs and traditions of the IP community.”
“We have with us in our possession copies of the community resolutions supposedly constituting the ‘so-called’ authorized elders/leaders. I am not a handwriting expert but a quick glance at the numerous signatures, it can lead any prudent man to conclude that the same were done by few individuals as seen in the single stroke of handwriting,” said Lappas.
“The questionable authorized elders/leaders were carried by NCIP throughout the FPIC process and served as the basis of consent which culminated through the affixing their signatures in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA),” added Lappas.
“We believe that the MOA is a product of a defective and questionable FPIC process and must be set-aside or deem void by the Commission En Banc,” underscored Lappas.
Meanwhile, after the hours long deliberation, NCIP Chairperson Allen Capuyan directed the NCIP – Cordillera to comply with the findings of the Commission’s Legal Affairs Office and the Ancestral Domains Office before the office can again take cognizance to the PPRPPC CP application.
If granted, the proposed 150 MW Gened Dam will not only displace IP communities but will submerge hundreds of houses situated both within Kabugao and Pudtol Ancestral Domains and inundate thousands of remains buried within the sacred burial grounds of the Isnag IPs.
The 150 MW Gened Dam is the first and smallest of four dam applications within Apayao.
The other mega dams applications seeking for CP through the FPIC process are the 335 MW Gened 2 Dam, the 191 MW Aoan Dam and the 170 MW Calanasan Dam.