Talks pushed to resume power plant ops in Benguet town

Talks pushed to resume power plant ops in Benguet town

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The provincial government hopes that concerned parties — members of the indigenous peoples (IPs), and Hedcor Inc. of Aboitiz Power will soon sit down and start the re-negotiation that will allow the resumption of operation of the 11.4-megawatt (MW) run-off river hydropower plant in the town of Bakun, this province.

Governor Melchor Diclas on Monday said in the Ilocano dialect, “we hope that they meet and negotiate soon so that they can fix the problem.”

“The more electricity is produced, the better it is for the parties, host communities, and the electric consumers,” he added.

On June 22, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) – Cordillera regional director Atty. Marlon Bosantog issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) to Hedcor Inc, a subsidiary of the Aboitiz Power, over the three run-off-river hydroelectric power plants in Bakun town.

The CDO will remain in effect until the company secures a Certification Precondition (CP) from the IP communities, which is proof that they have given their Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) which is a requirement under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

In 2019, the local government did not issue Hedcor a business permit to operate after it failed to get a CP following the expiration of the 25-year Memorandum of Agreement in 2016 and 2019.

The whole of Bakun town is covered by an ancestral domain title, requiring that an FPIC of the concerned IPs be obtained for any entity to operate as prescribed under the IPRA Law.

Diclas said the parties are willing to sit down and negotiate their demands and come up with a win-win solution beneficial to everyone.

“We want the company to operate so that they can make full use of their investment and we also want the IP host communities to get what is due to them. This will also benefit the host barangays, municipal government including the provincial government in terms of natural wealth tax,” he said earlier.

Energy Regulation 1-94 of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) Law prescribes that host local government units get a share of one centavo for every kilowatt-hour generated by power plants operating in their areas.

In a statement released to the media, Noreen Vicencio, Hedcor’s Vice President for Corporate Services, said they have been compliant with all the requirements during the FPIC application process, “and have been waiting for the issuance of the Certificate Precondition since the FPIC-MOA was signed.”

“The CDO will not just affect Hedcor, but also the customers and communities we serve. At this time of a red alert situation in the Luzon grid, the continued operation of our plants is very crucial,” she added.

Vicencio said that Hedcor will continue to actively reach out to the IP communities for dialogue or the customary “tongtongan” between the company and the Bakun IPs, with the guidance of NCIP.

Aboitiz Power also operates several small hydroelectric power plants in the towns of Tuba and La Trinidad in Benguet, and Sabangan Mountain Province aside from the 140 MW Binga Hydro Electric Power Plant in Itogon and the 105 MW Ambuklao hydroelectric power plant in Bokod, both in Benguet. (PNA

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