By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Finding clear violations of the “Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)” guidelines, the National Commission on Indigenous People-Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR) suspended the FPIC proceedings for the 52 megawatts Karayan Hydroelectric Plant Project (KHPP) in Tabuk, Kalinga.
The suspension order was issued by Atty. Roland Calde, head of NCIP-CAR on July 17 as per recommendation of the FPIC team headed by Mai Lani Labo, the agency’s provincial officer.
Labo and her team noted that “violations [were] committed by both the proponent and some community members involving an amount of money.”
The project proponent is San Lorenzo Builders and Developers Group (Karayan Incorporated) owned by Oscar Violago. The KHPP is part of the Chico River Hydroelectric projects in different sections of the river.
Field based investigation (FBI) started mid-November 2016 where the concerned indigenous groups to be consulted were identified. The FBI team noted the project located in Locog, Tabuk City is within the Dallac ancestral domain (AD). Impact areas include Brgys. Bagumbayan and Naneng of the Nanong AD upstream and Brgys. Amlao and Suyang of Biga AD.
In 2017, the community consultative assembly (CCA) of the affected areas commenced on January 12 and ended on February 22.
Before the consensus building and decision meeting for the three subtribes that started , 46 elders from the three affected ADs joined a field trip facilitated by the project proponent in March. As per NCIP record, majority of those who attended the consensus building meeting from April 21-23 decided in favor of the project.
However, on May 10, members of the Naneng, Dallak and Minanga subtribes and residents of Sitio Banat, Bagumbayan who own lands to be affected by the project submitted a letter to the NCIP. They expressed “strong opposition” and urged “for the discontinuance” of the dam project. The letter was signed by 89 individuals.
The petitioners also expalined that majority of those who were consulted, while members of the subtribes, were not from the areas directly affected by the project. They also claimed the project runs counter to the 50-year Urban Master Plan that declared the Western part of the city as a Tourism Development Area.
“Furthermore, we are afraid as precedents that rebellion will arise and blood be shed like what happened to some members of our subtribe on the proposed dam in Tomiangan, Dupag, Tabuk City,” writes the signatories.
Besides the letter from the affected communities, the Sangguniang Panlunsod also passed Resolution No. 2017-06 on April 4 urging the NCIP to include downstream communities along the Chico River for the FPIC process.
During the May 12 and 15 meetings with the concerned AD holders, the affected individuals and families explicitly showed their strong opposition. This continued until the November 19 special meeting at Banat, Bagumbayan where the blue print of the project was to be presented. According to the NCIP report, participants refused to sign the attendance and Karayan, Inc. was not allowed to deliver their piece.
In May 2017, former NCIP provincial officer Natividad Suggiayao was quoted by the media declaring the approval of the project, that it abided by the rules set by the agency for the FPIC process.
However, documents from the emergency meeting between the Nanong Subtribe, Karayan Inc. and NCIP-Kalinga held on March 3, 2018 at Banat, Bagumbayan, Tabuk City say otherwise.
Records from the meeting shows that a certain Engr. Jonas Azuelo from Karayan Inc. acknowledge the “wrong steps” taken by the company and apologized for not consulting the direct land owners affected by the project.
Narratives from the residents also gleans of bribery, threats and deceit from company personnel and the residents who were in favor of the project.
The dialogue was requested by Mr. Cornelio Balnao, head of the No to Karayan Movement, to “address the issues of the Nanong subtribe.”# nordis.net