Agreement Grants Use of Facilities to Ambuclao-Binga Communities (But Dispossession, Rights Issues Remain Unaddressed)

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – Various host communities of the Ambuklao–Binga hydro-electric power plant entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the developers of the said plant for their use and management of facilities located in Marian Village and Sombrero in the barangays (villages) of Tinongdan, Itogon, and Ambuclao, Bokod.

Residents claimed that their main issues on land dispossession, compensation and other rights were not addressed by the MOA.

The MOA is a result of at least seven months of negotiations facilitated by the Compliance Advisory Ombudsman of the World Bank (CAO/WB) among the stakeholders with the plant developers SN Aboitiz Power – Benguet, Inc. (SNAP-Benguet), National Power Corporation, and Power Sectors Assets and Liabilities (PSALM).

The facilities included a school, gym, day care centers, market, multi-purpose halls among others. According to the MOA, the facilities are included in the Indigenous People’s Cultural Heritage Site which aimed to empower the indigenous peoples and for them to determine the usage of these to improve their quality of life and ensure for the future use of the next generation.

Ambuklao and Binga dams are undergoing rehabilitation by SNAP-Benguet which acquired the plant from the government as part of its privatization program.

SNAP-Benguet acquired a loan from the International Finance Corporation, a company under the World Bank which provides loans to private corporations.

World Bank intervention

In an interview, Amar Inamdar, Senior Ombudsman for the CAO/WB, said his office intervened in the conflict of the communities with the developer when the former’s issues were brought to their attention on June 20 last year.

Aware of the Bontok-Kalinga opposition to former President Ferdinand Marcos’s World Bank-funded dam project along the Chico river in the 1980s, Inamdar said that the MOA between the stakeholders was a product of openness from both sides. It was a product of assurances, respects, understanding and talking, said Inamdar.

He claimed the World Bank, through the CAO, would intervene in any of their funded projects if the affected communities would raise their issues to them.

When asked when an issue should be brought to them, he said that when the dialogue in the local level does not work then it could be elevated to the CAO through a letter. His office would assess the conflict by interviewing various stakeholders and would try to adopt workable solutions, Inamdar explained.

He mentioned they had encountered problems like those of the Ambuclao-Binga Dam in their funded projects in Indonesia, India, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Kenya and others but they tried to work out solutions.

Main issues unanswered

A resident interviewed by Nordis wondered why the MOA signing took place at Club John Hay’s 19th Tee Function Room.

“It could be better if the signing was witnessed and celebrated by the communities in Ambuclao and Binga,” he said.

Another resident said that the MOA is a token when it comes to their real problems of just compensation for their lands, which, he said, were taken to give way to the two dams some 60 years ago.

“The original issues that we raised were our displacement, settlement, and recognition of our rights as indigenous peoples,” he said. “How do they address these problems with the transition toward privatization of the plant? These issues should have been clarified first, at least.” (Northern Dispatch / Posted by

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