TABUK CITY, Kalinga — The Taloctoc tribe in the municipality of Tanudan rejected the proposed 17MW Upper Tabuk Hydroelectric Power Project (UTHPP) during the 2nd Community Consultative Assembly (CCA) on November 8, 2019, held at Upper Taloctoc, Tanudan Kalinga.

According to Kagawad Dison Canabang of Upper Taloctoc, the elders and residents turned down the project with overwhelming unity. He said that despite the second CCA came in surprise to them, and the people stood their ground.

The village official recalled that before the assembly, their punong barangay (village chief) issued a notice for public consultation. The information contained in the announcement was for them to meet representatives from the Kalinga Electric Cooperative.

However, personnel from the provincial office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and UTHPP proponent DPJ Engineers & Consultancy arrived the following day. Two barangay officials from Dupag, Tabuk City, accompanied the visitors. He said that it was only then that they were informed of the conduct of the second CCA.

Canabang narrated that DPJ Engineers & Consultancy tried to sway the Taloctoc by presenting the supposed benefits of the project for the community but failed.

The village official shared that Leonardo Dalutag, an elder, ended the discussion by saying “naawatak dayta ibagbaga yo ngem saludusudek man kadagiti kailyan nu naawatan da (I understand what you’re talking about but may I ask my village mate if they understand too).”

Members of the tribe present answered in chorus that they already understood the project. After which, Dalutag asked his village mates, “E laydon tako (do we approve)?” Again, in unison, the people answered that they do not approve of the project.

According to Canabang’s observation, the strong opposition forced the NCIP personnel to facilitate the process for the resolution of non-consent (RNOC) under the FPIC Guidelines. He also noted that the FPIC team was in a hurry to return to Tabuk and left a copy of the RNOC form for the residents to sign.

The barangay council member also belied the declaration made by Engr. Daniel Peckley, chief engineer of DPJ. In a Facebook post, he said, “elders and members of the Taloctoc Indigenous Cultural Community (ICC) expressed their will and decision that their ancestral domain (AD) shall be excluded from the Upper Tabuk Hydropower Project (UTHPP).”

He clarified that what they expressed was the opposition to the project, for the UTHPP not to proceed because it will affect parts of their ancestral domain, including their livelihood.

Danny Bangibang of Timpuyog ti Mannalon ti Kalinga (TMK) and member of the Taloctoc community pointed out that the proponent cannot exclude their ancestral domain from the impact of the project.

“Once they put that dam, we will feel the impacts and suffer from whatever disturbance it will cause to our natural environment. That is why we opposed it; our opposition means not a single piece of our territory should be touch or affected by that project,” he explained.

NCIP irregularities

Bangibang also questioned the NCIP why there was no prior notice given to the community for the CCA. He said that while they welcome the acknowledgment of NCIP of their tribe’s decision, they still want the provincial personnel of the commission to explain the matter.

“NCIP holding the CCA and validation of the signatures for the petition that we filed in October is not only irregular but a clear betrayal of their mandate to protect the interest of indigenous peoples’ communities,” he said.

In October, NCIP Kalinga said they would suspend the CCA in areas with signatories in the petition as mandated by the FPIC guidelines. According to the office, only the Malbong and Taloctoc tribes would undergo validation.

Members of the affected tribes, including those not identified by the NCIP for the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) process, signed the petition. The petitioners submitted the document to the provincial field office on October 2, 2019.

Despite the petition lodged against the project and the FPIC still on the process, NCIP Kalinga issued a certification that “the majority of the affected [ancestral domains] gave their consent on the proposed project.”

The office issued the certification to Peckley on October 23, although NCIP Regional Director Roland Calde earlier issued an order for the provincial office to validate the issues raised in the petition.

Bangibang said that Peckley’s request for the certification and the positive response of NCIP Kalinga run contrary to the directive of the regional office not to create any direct or indirect action that may affect the outcome of the investigation of the issues raised in the petition.

“This shows how the proponent is desperate in doing everything just to pursue his project,” he added.

Joel Baluga, an elder from the Malbong tribe, also denounced the certification issued by the NCIP provincial office, stating the majority of the affected tribes are favor of the UTHPP.

“How can the NCIP Kalinga declare the yes vote while the FPIC process is not yet finished, and we already submitted our petition to oppose the hydro project in the first place?” he lamented.

He also expressed his dismay to NCIP Kalinga to perform its mandate protecting the right of the indigenous peoples of these ICCs.

“Until now, e NCIP Kalinga still deaf without taking any action in response to our petition,” Baluga added.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Tabuk is set to conduct a public hearing on November 18 to discuss with the petitioners their petition against the UTHPP. The proponents on their part have presented their position before the city council last November 8.# nordis.net

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