BAGUIO CITY — “We are still willing to sit down and talk,” Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. as a local landowner’s group threatened to divert the water from the hydroelectric plants in Asin.
With the intercession of Benguet representative Samuel Dangwa, who appealed for a reasonable arrangement between the parties to achieve social justice and equity, City Administrator Peter Fianza is optimistic the problem with landowners would be solved soon.
In the December 2 letter from Tadiangan-Nangalisan Hydro Ancestral Landowners Association (TNHALA), Asin folk in Tuba gave the city “60-days to look for alternative water sources to operate the hydroelectric plants.”
“We hope the honorable Dangwa could aid us in bringing the city and TNHALA back to the negotiating table,” said Fianza.
The water is purportedly intended for fishponds and some agricultural lands.
Bautista thought the landowners were willing to sit down with the Asin Management Committee (ManCom) and discuss what is fair and reasonable compensation for lands encroached upon by AHP trappings.
When ManCom provided maps and documents hoping TNHALA would help fast-track negotiations as agreed, the group reportedly used the same in seeking injunctive relief against the city before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), denied on July 4, TNAHAL’s application for a writ of preliminary injunction against the city government. NCIP wisely pointed out the action is for payment of compensation and not concerning land claims.
Fianza in a separate interview warned TNHALA now woos possible suits for contempt and unjust invasion of the city’s water rights.
Fianza said that by seeking relief from NCIP, TNHALA cannot, on its own, do away with expelling the city government from operating the AHPs. He said the Mancom has been patiently dealing with the landholders.
Earlier, TNAHALA demanded the city pay a 20-year retroactive rent; secure necessary permits before operating the plants; pay monthly rent of P00 per square meter of hydro-affected lots; priority employment of Asin residents; among others.
Hydroelectric Development Corporation (Hedcor), paid at a lease rate of P5 per square meter per month without complaints.
Fianza added saw the need to push through with the survey which remained in limbo when TNHALA leaders turned their backs from the negotiating table. # Isagani S. Liporada/PIO-Baguio City