Pulangi V proponents risking TRO without FPIC

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 June) — The proponents of the 300-megawatt Pulangi V hydroelectric power plant in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato should secure a free and prior informed consent (FPIC) from the Lumads (indigenous peoples) or risk a temporary restraining order from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Santos Unsad, NCIP commissioner for  Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao told a dialogue last week that as a quasi-judicial body, the NCIP sitting en banc can issue a temporary restraining order against the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco) project proponent, if they continue violating the FPIC process.

Unsad said Fibeco should secure an endorsement from the Department of Energy (DOE) which the NCIP required in initiating the process.

Unsad, and Cosme Lambayon, the NCIP commissioner representing Northern and Western Mindanao met with the Lumads and Fibeco on June 12  in response to the letter of Manobo Datu Jose Anlacob of Kibawe  to the NCIP, complaining that Fibeco proceeded with social acceptability activities without an FPIC.

Fibeco officials clarified that they sought endorsements from three barangays and vowed to go through the FPIC process after obtaining an endorsement from DOE.

Felix Vergara Jr, Fibeco board member, told the dialogue they could not refuse Lumad members of village councils from taking part in their consultations.

According to FPIC guidelines, activities held with Lumad participants but outside the FPIC process cause undue influence on them.

Fibeco general manager Rene Cortizano told MindaNews that before the DOE could issue an endorsement, Fibeco must first secure an endorsement from the local government.

The proposed project involves 20 barangays in four Bukidnon towns. So far, only the municipalities of Dangcagan, Damulog, and Kitaotao have granted endorsements. The municipality of Kibawe has withheld an endorsement because two of its 11 barangays, Pinamula and Sanipon, opposed the project.

In April, Datu Matingaw Petronilo Cabungcal, representative of the Save Pulangi Alliance reported to the provincial board that eight of the 10 barangays that endorsed the project have withdrawn their support. He cited the alleged failure of the proponents to find a relocation site for those who live in areas that would be submerged once the dam is built.

Cortizano said he respects the position of the barangay councils but said there must have been  some lapses in explaining to the villages about the project.

He admitted in the dialogue that their personnel may have erred in the process as several tribal leaders and barangay captains complained that Fibeco personnel imposed a pro-forma endorsement resolution.

Kibawe municipal councilor Bert Mar Romero lamented that the endorsement did not go through the village council’s usual process in passing a resolution.

Romero headed an Ad Hoc Committee organized by the Kibawe municipal council to look into the request for endorsement. They went to all the barangays and consulted them on their stand.

He said Kibawe refused to give an endorsement because not all barangays endorsed the project.

Cortizano said they will go through the endorsement process again in Kibawe although he clarified that some barangay councils requested for pro-forma resolutions to guide them. Earlier, Fibeco officials said they may not return to the barangays because they had “spent so much.”

Vergara appealed for a “best option.”

Datu Pendulonan Rogelio Lahunay, Kibawe tribal chieftain, raised the issue of kawalis or percentage share for the tribe. Vergara said Fibeco will consider but will will seek guidelines from the NCIP.

Richard Macas, NCIP Bukidnon legal officer and facilitator of the dialogue, said the issue on percentage share or royalty fee will be discussed in the FPIC process.

A representative from a people’s organization asked about management of the project considering it covers two provinces. The NCIP has guidelines on this.

Datu Manuel Dalas of Damulog town asked about payment for lands without titles. The Lumads claim a native title over their ancestral domain before a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title is issued. Vergara said the relationship of the firm and the tribe is not only on “payments” but also in partnerships. He said payment does not come only in money  but also in opportunities.

Manobo Datu Feliciano Anggaan from Damulog, who admitted he was previously against the project but is now supporting the project is worried that the proposed project is dividing their tribe.

Commissioner Lambayon said the dialogue is only one of the many that will be held especially within an FPIC process. He said it was unfortunate that the letter-writer, Datu Anallacob, could not make it to the dialogue.

Macas clarified that the dialogue is not the last as it only seeks to identify the issues concerning the proposed project.

Other issues aired are on the alleged extinction of the tribe because of the project,  poor education services for the tribe’s children because among those expected to be inundated are school buildings; that the Pulangihon-Manobo tribe’s culture will vanish as their territory will be under water; and the supposed “privatization of Pulangi V.”

A major concern raised by the Lumads is if agreements would be honored by Fibeco if they give their  consent.

Cortizano said the agreements will be embodied in a memorandum of agreement and they can be sued if not followed.

Fibeco officials supported the suggestion of Datu Mayda Pandian, representative of the IPs to the provincial board to hold an all-Lumad meeting to discuss the issue. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)