By ARTHUR ALLAD-IW
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet– While alleging that provincial and regional officials of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) are “railroading” the residents’ consent to favor a proponent of the geothermal project in Daclan, Bokod, a village elder alleged that influential local personalities of this province are involved with the project.
Victor B. Wales, a Daclan elder, alleged that the incorporators of the Clean Rock Renewable Resources Corporation are lawyer partners of these local politicians.
Interviewed residents claim that prior to the application by Clean Rock for the project, one of the said local politicians based in Manila went to inspect the area of the hot spring in Daclan.
Nordis sources, however held back to name this politician as they wanted to build documentation and evidence for their claim on this politician with reference to the project.
Meanwhile, the NCIP local officials were accused by some Daclan residents to be biased, and in favor of the proponent company as manifested by the two conducted Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) consultations.
“The credibility of the Regional Director, the NCIP as a whole, is now suspect when they re-conducted the FPIC consensus building on August 20 last year (where the result favored the project),” stated Wales in a strongly worded letter submitted to Director Amador Batay-an of the NCIP-Cordillera.
Interviewed Daclan elders reiterated the respect of the first FPIC process that they had in their May 14, 2009 assembly which resulted to their “absolute rejection of the proposed project by Clean Rock”.
They wonder why Batay-an ordered in his letter on August 10, 2009 a new round of FPIC when residents wrote a letter to him after the first FPIC that the decision (May 14) was made without the presence of NCIP FPIC. Batay-an in his letter also said that the absence of an NCIP FPIC team gave reason for the proponent to request for another round.
Residents, however, earlier belied Batay-an’s claim that there were no FPIC team as Atty. Severino Lumiqued of NCIP Benguet was there and advised them to document the result of their consensus which was their absolute rejection of the project.
Nordis sources claim that the residents’ letter sent to Batay-an which was the basis to call for another round of the FPIC consultation include signatories of at least three high school students.
“How can these minor students represent the residents? The NCIP should have verified these signatories before ordering for a second round of FPIC,” the source said requesting not to be identified.
Last December, the residents attended the session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet where the August Body recognized the position of the residents and urged that a new consultation process start anew.
To the surprise of the residents, the NCIP scheduled a January 5 Memorandum of Agreement signing with proponent Clean Rock.
Daclan Barangay Capatain Hilario S. Anselmo requested that the said signing be postponed as the community failed to come up with a common position yet.
They set a meeting with the Local Government Units (LGU), Indigenous Peoples Organization and other organizations to meet and discuss the project. “We need to discuss the project with all vital information to guide us on any decision,” a resident said.
Residents alleged that they had not been provided with any documents or information on the project by both the proponent and the NCIP. # nordis.net