The three hydroelectric power plants of Aboitiz Power Corporation subsidiary Hedcor in Bakun, Benguet were forcibly shut down on Wednesday by the local government unit (LGU) despite the Department of Energy’s (DOE) advisory for the said facilities to continue operating.
AboitizPower said that representatives from the Bakun LGU, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples – Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR), and the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization (BITO) went to Hedcor’s Lower Labay, Lon-oy, and FLS hydropower plants to implement the NCIP-CAR’s cease and desist order (CDO) issued last June 22.
According to Atty. Jerry Marave, who accompanied the group to implement the shutdown, a court order and not a letter from the DOE can supersede the CDO. They likewise insisted that the letter from the DOE was not an instruction, rather, a simple reminder.
The standing Status Quo Ante Order issued by the Regional Trial Court of Buguias, Benguet, which is a result of a mutual commitment between Hedcor and the LGU, represented by Atty. Sunny Sacla, to maintain the uninterrupted operations of the plants, was also not recognized by the group.
Based on the CDO, BITO issued a resolution of non-consent in April, saying that its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Hedcor highly favors the power firm. The MOA was also said to have been used to exert pressure on the town’s local government to favor the company’s demands.
“Unless DOE expressly states in writing and confirms that their letter sent on June 25 addressed to Hedcor to continue operations is simply a reminder, we will treat DOE’s letter as an order for Hedcor to keep operating our plants in Bakun. However, we are forced to stop operations, with the threat posed by the situation. As much as we want to continue delivering power to the Luzon Grid, we don’t want to compromise the safety of the community and our personnel,” Hedcor Vice President for Operations and Maintenance Leo Lungay said in a statement.
The DOE’s June 25 letter states that operations of the three plants are critical given the Luzon Grid’s thin reserves and the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why it continued to allow their operations.
“Hedcor has earnestly engaged and constantly reached out to the community in good faith for a reasonable dialogue. Prior to the issuance of this CDO, we were hopeful with the confirmed tongtongan that we were supposed to have with the IP (indigenous peoples) leaders last June 15. However, with the last-minute cancellation advised by the LGU, and followed by the BITO, we are saddened that the situation has come to this,” said Hedcor Vice President for Corporate Services Noreen Vicencio.
“We hear the community’s desire for a dialogue and the demand for a shutdown before any discussions will commence, but we also have a mandate from DOE to continue operations in light of the ongoing power crisis in Luzon. We reiterate our long-standing request to engage in a reasonable dialogue with the community, while allowing the plants to continue running, so we can serve the critical energy needs of the Luzon grid and at the same time, sustain the benefits for the Bakun IPs,” Vicencio added.
Photo from AboitizPower-Hedcor website.