Hedcor calls for a fair, reasonable, and sustainable resolution of issues

On May 4, 2021, Hedcor received a letter from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples – Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR), led by Director Marlon Bosantog, stating that Hedcor has “no more legal justification to continue with the operations” of its three hydropower plants (“Bakun Plants”) in Bakun, Benguet and that Hedcor should immediately return the land occupied by its facilities to the Bakun IP.

We are deeply concerned by the turn of events, as this is not consistent with the 2018 NCIP Rules of Procedure. We are also studying the remedies available for reconsideration and appeal under the NCIP Administrative Order No. 3 series of 2012 (the Revised FPIC Guidelines) or the Revised Rules of Court.

This finding of Director Bosantog also disregards the existence of a valid and binding Memorandum of Agreement (FPIC-MOA), executed on October 15, 2019 between Hedcor and Bakun Indigenous Tribe Organization (BITO), for Hedcor’s community shares and implementation of community projects in compliance with the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA). It also  refuses to acknowledge the result of the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) process, which has been facilitated by NCIP-CAR itself since 2017.

Hedcor has been compliant with all the necessary requirements to ensure business continuity and sustained benefits for the community. We have been reasonable in our negotiations with the Bakun community.

We are calling on NCIP-CAR, through Director Bosantog, to recognize and respect the FPIC-MOA between Hedcor and the IP communities, and to ensure that it is guarded against undue influence and interference, and ultimately, to protect the integrity and sanctity of the FPIC process.

The Bakun Plants have gone through a rigorous and successful FPIC process, resulting in the issuance of Certificate of Consent, and consequently, a signed FPIC-MOA. In fact, as a sign of its good faith and recognizing the long-standing partnership between Hedcor and the Bakun IP communities, Hedcor did not hesitate to proceed with the implementation of certain provisions of the FPIC-MOA upon the request of BITO even ahead of the issuance of the CP, with the full knowledge and support of the NCIP-CAR.

Thus, it is difficult to understand why NCIP-CAR is delaying the issuance of Certificate of Precondition (CP), which consequently denies the Bakun IP the timely enjoyment of their rightful community share from the operations of the Bakun Plants.

Despite the issues, we hope to continue generating clean and renewable energy, and from such generation, provide the community shares and benefits to Bakun IP in accordance with NCIP guidelines. “We recognize the important role of the NCIP in championing fairness and due process rights, and protecting the integrity of the FPIC. We continue our call for a dialogue to resolve any misunderstanding between Hedcor and the Bakun IPs,” Hedcor Vice President for External Affairs, Noreen Vicencio, said.

“Our plants have operated prior to the institution of the IPRA Law, and during its implementation, we have given the IPRA Law due recognition and exerted effort to comply with its requirements.  We are doing all we can to resolve the matter and to secure the issuance of the CP which has long been delayed.  This is a process we hold with deep respect and trust, and we have made sure that we followed the guidance of the NCIP every step of the way.   We continue to be one with the NCIP in ensuring the protection of the rights of the IP, and it is our hope that we get their continued support for us to remit the mandated benefits that the IPs deserve.,” Vicencio added.

Incidentally, Hedcor received a resolution from the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) under the Office of the President, ordering the  Bakun LGU officials to issue the Business Permit  of Hedcor in accordance with law, and to explain why they should not be held liable for their refusal to act on Hedcor’s business permits application. This echoes the opinions issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for LGUs to strictly adhere to the legal requirements for a Business Permit according to law. It may be recalled that in July 2020, the Bakun LGU ordered the stoppage of operations of Hedcor after failing to agree on the terms of a separate MOA for additional shares for the LGU on top of legally mandated contributions.

We have been part of the Bakun community in the past 30 years, and we hope to continue to be Bakun’s partner for progress for the years to come. We reiterate our appeal to our BITO and LGU leaders for a fair, reasonable, and sustainable resolution of issues. ###