Groups behind 6 hydro power plants seeking Lumad consent in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/27 June) – Companies behind six proposed hydroelectric power projects in Bukidnon have applied for a free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process with the provincial office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Ma. Shirlene Sario, Bukidnon provincial officer, said the list does not include the proposed 300-megawatt Pulangi V hydro electric power complex in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato because there has been no application yet from the group behind it.

Sario told the Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan during her appearance Wednesday they are processing the applications for six proposed hydro plants in the province. The 132-megawatt Bulanog-Batang hydro-power project in Cagayan River is so far the biggest proposed by the Northern Mindanao Electric Cooperatives Association (Nomreca).

The NCIP has already issued the certification pre-condition (CP) to Nomreca, one requirement for the firm to obtain permit for the project. With NCIP, this is the final issuance.

According to the NCIP guidelines for FPIC, to obtain CP, the applicant has to go through the field investigation first, which may result into an issuance of a Certificate of Non-Overlap. This needs no more FPIC process. But if there is overlap, the applicant then goes through the FPIC process proper.

The tribe may or may not give consent to the applicant in the FPIC process. If disapproved, the tribe will issue a resolution of non consent. If they approve, they can proceed to the signing of a memorandum of agreement. After the MOA signing, NCIP may then issue the CP.

First Gen Mindanao Hydropower Corporation has applied for an FPIC process to tap water from the Tagoloan River in Impasug-ong and the Tumalaong River in Sumilao and Baungon towns. The FPIC process is still at field-based investigation (FBI) stage, Sario said.

FBI refers to the ground investigation to determine whether or not the plan, program, project or activity overlaps with or affects an ancestral domain, the extent of the affected area, and the indigenous cultural communities / indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) whose FPIC is to be obtained, according to the guidelines. Sta. Clara Power Corporation is also seeking consent for the 9-megawatt Manupali (River) Mini Hydro Project in Lurugan, Valencia City.

The firm obtained a Certificate of Non-Overlap (CNO) from NCIP. The CNO is issued by the NCIP regional director to certify that the proposed project does not affect or overlap with any ancestral domain.

But the issuance carries a condition that the applicant will go through an FPIC process if found later to have overlapped in part or whole.

NCIP Bukidnon already issued a CNO to another company, Genphil Renewable Energy, for the Panoon mini hydro project in Poblacion, Impasug-ong town.

Hedcor Bukidnon, Inc., a subsidiary of Aboitiz Power, has also applied for FPIC for the 28-megawatt Sita-Simod hydro power project in Kitaotao, Bukidnon. Sario said the status of the project is for “MOA signing” with the Federation of Matigsalug-Manobo Tribal Councils (Femmatrics).

NCIP Bukidnon noted the completion of an FPIC process for First Gen Mindanao Hydropower Corporation for another hydro project to tap water from Kulaman River in Imbatug and Liboran in Baungon and Bubunawan River in Kiliog, Libona town.

Sario said the NCIP en banc already ordered the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco), Pulangi V’s proponent, to apply for an FPIC. NCIP commissioners warned Fibeco officials in a dialogue earlier this month that the firm is risking a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the quasi-court body if they won’t apply for an FPIC process.

Sario said they have received no information about the firm’s application for FPIC yet.

Fibeco officials said they are yet to obtain an endorsement from the Department of Energy and the local government units before they could apply for an FPIC. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)