Benguet’s provincial government hopes that Aboitiz Power Corporation subsidiary Hedcor Inc. and the indigenous peoples (IP) will soon discuss and start re-negotiations leading to the resumption of operation of the power firm’s three hydroelectric plants in Bakun town.
Gov. Melchor Diclas indicated that he hopes for a resolution, so that more electricity is produced in a way that is amenable for the parties, host communities, and electric consumers.
On June 22, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued a cease and desist order (CDO) to Hedcor’s Lower Labay, FLS, and Lon-oy run-of-river hydroelectric plants. A few days later, the Department of Energy (DOE) advised Hedcor to continue operating the facilities until the NCIP forcibly shut them down on June 30.
The order will remain in effect until Hedcor secures a certification precondition (CP) from the IP communities, which serves as they have given their free prior and informed consent (FPIC) — a requirement under Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
Back in 2019, the local government did not issue the firm a business permit to operate due to failure in securing a CP following the expiration of the 25-year memorandum of agreement in 2016 and 2019.
The entire Bakun is covered by an ancestral domain title. Under the IPRA, any entity that wishes to operate within such lands needs to obtain the FPIC of the concerned IPs before setting up shop.
Diclas said that both parties are willing to discuss and negotiate their demands and come up with a viable solution that is beneficial to everyone. He added that while they want the firm to operate so they can use their full investment, they also want the IP host communities to get what is due to them.
The DOE’s Energy Regulation (ER) 1-94 states that host local government units should get a share of one centavo for every kilowatt-hour generated by power plants operating in their areas. ER 1-94 is a stipulation under Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).
Photo from Aboitiz Hedcor website.