Residents of a village in Kabayan, Benguet opposed the application of a Manila-based proponent to build a mini-hydro electric project in one of their rivers. They say they were never consulted, and the benefits they take from the river would be reduced.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – Residents of a village in Kabayan, Benguet opposed the application of a Manila-based proponent to build a mini-hydro electric project in one of their rivers as they claimed they were never consulted, and that the benefits they get from the river would be reduced.
Mayor Faustino Aquisan of Kabayan said the villagers of Barangay (village) Edet filed their opposition at the national office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
A certain Arnold Yangco, the project proponent from Manila, filed the application for water rights with NIA to use the Edet River for a mini-hydroelectric project. The application was done, however, without any consultation with the affected villagers, Aquisan explained.
“The NIA legal department already heard their petition Wednesday (Oct. 8),” Aquisan said in an interview, (and) they reiterated the absence of consultation. That hearing was already the second, he added. The first was in September.
Edet villagers claimed the river is among the main sources of water for their fields and gardens. It also provides them with fresh fish. They said their rights to utilize the river would be limited should NIA grant Yangco’s application.
Barangay Edet, where farming is the main source of livelihood, has at least 700 residents.
Edet River is the headwater of Mount Pulag.
A staff member at the regional Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office said the area is covered by the Upper Agno Watershed Reservation, which is the subject of former President Ferdinand Marcos’ Proclamation No. 548. The UAWR covers 9,000 hectares.
“It is therefore a NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Areas System) area where any economic activitiy like (building) mini-hydroelectric projects are not allowed,” the source added in an interview.
Edet River is also frequented by tourists due to the rich biodiversity and the clear water in the area. It is a major tributary of the Agno River, a villager said.
Aside from the non-consultation issue, an Edet villager criticized the proponent’s application at the NIA as a tactic for exhausting the resources of the villagers.
He claimed the proponent is mandated to get the free, prior and informed consent of the affected villagers as provided by the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)