By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
In my last column, I discussed how Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, in a priviledge speech in Congress, exposed the illegality and unconstitutionality of the Malampaya gas project. He pointed out the 90 percent control of Chevron and Shell over the project and how these foreign corporate interests rake profit from from the project at the disadvantage of the government.
One issue that I want to discuss is the establishment of the project’s pipelines in the ancestral domain of the Tagbanua, indigenous people in Palawan, without their issued free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Because of the absence of their FPIC on the said project, leaders of the Tagbanua filed on August 15, 2011 a case at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) hearing office of Region IV for the unauthorized and unlawful intrusion with a prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Permanent Injunction with damages against the Malaya Gas Project Consortium. The Malampaya Gas Project is a consortium between the government and private oil corporations – Shell has a 45 percent stake on the project while the other 45 percent is owned by Chevron, and only 10 percent is controlled by the government through its agency, the Philippine National Oil Corporation.
On August 22, 2011, the Hearing Officer of Region IV issued the TRO against the Malampaya Gas Project. The said officer scheduled on March 14, 2012 an ocular inspection over the Tagbanua area. The ocular inspection would aid the hearing officer in his decision whether or not to grant the injunction to stop the project. That schedule in March became April, then May. But all these reschedules for the inspection were not realized. Guess what? Due to the systematic, conscious maneuvering by the government’s Department of Energy.
In my column last week, I mentioned that the ocular inspection was to happen on June 7. And I am supposedly to write the update of that inspection on this issue because I always believe that the inspection would push through. But alas, the ocular inspection did not happen again due to the DOE’s effort.
In the letter of DOE Undersecretary Jose M. Layug Jr. to Regional Hearing Officer Kisack Gabaen on March 20, 2012, he stated that the Malampaya pipeline is part of the Malampaya Gas Project; that the project for the production of natural gas in the area is under the supervision of DOE; that he emphasized that the project is vital to the energy needs of the country; and that any cessation or interruption in its operation will have grave and disastrous repercussions to the power supply of Luzon, and consequently, will produce catastrophic effects on the Philippines.
Layug also pointed out that Shell has submitted evidence which established that no portion of the Malampaya pipeline intrudes in the ancestral domain of the Tagbanua or any indigenous community or people.
The above reasons of Layug should oblige the DOE, Shell and Chevron to support the occular inspection. The occular inspection would determine if they are correct in their claim that they did not encroach in the domain of the Tagbanau. If it was found out in the ocular inspection that they did not really encroach, then it would be for their benefit to continue the project. But the DOE had been consistent in trying to evade their participation and in the realization of the occular inspection.
There seems to be something wrong here. As if they do not like the Tagbanua, the NCIP, and the public to know if their pipelines encroached in the Tagbanuas domain.
Going further from the pipelines encroachment on the Tagbanauas domain, my conversation with some Tagbanau leaders really show that they did not issue their consent on the project. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA) mandates that any projects that affect indigenous peoples shall have the FPIC of these people. The law does not provide exception even if it is a government project. In the above case in fact, the project is controlled by private foreign corporate interests, with minimal share controlled by the government. Then the FPIC of the indigenous people affected must be obtained.
The absence of the FPIC from the Tagbanau is one of the issues that makes the project illegal. FPIC is a statutory requirement. The government and its partners in the Malampaya Gas Project violate this statutory requirement – that the affected IPs should be consulted and consent first. # nordis.net