Another Questionable Geothermal Project in Benguet Being Opposed

Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY – In Bokod, the second largest municipality of Benguet, residents are opposing a looming geothermal project that, they say, is not only dangerous for them and the environment but has also run roughshod on their rights to due process.

“To put another energy project in Bokod, which already hosts two hydro-electric dams, and provides water to another mega dam (San Roque) downstream is subjecting the natural environment, particularly of Bokod, to too much environmental stress,” the Kalesay ni Emaga-ngan, an association of families and clans in Bokod, said in a statement.

Families and clans to be affected by the planned geothermal project in Daclan, Bokod, Bokod, say the project would not only unduly strain the social environment but would also disrupt the peaceful relationship of indigenous peoples in the area.

United now under the Kalesay ni Emaga-ngan (Bokod) Association, Inc., the upland clans and families say the geothermal project does not adhere to sustainable development and undermines their rights as indigenous peoples.

Questionable “Consent”

The residents said the process of consultation and consent acquisition done by the Benguet office of National Commission on Indigenous Peoples is “insufficient.”

Nordis learned that in a “free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC)” facilitated by the NCIP Benguet last May 14, the affected residents had rejected the project.

Despite their protestations, in another FPIC process held last August 20, a “favorable consent” on the project was supposedly achieved.

“No matter how well-meant the NCIP might be, the process was inherently flawed. Proper consultation with the people in a project of this magnitude could not be had in a single process,” said the residents.

The residents further pointed out that the process disallowed getting the consent of people in areas to be affected by the project. “It does not have any environmental impact measurement, but relies solely on what the proponent states in their application,” they said.

Support from Local Legislators

As the NCIP did not heed the peoples’ rejection of the project, the residents looked for other venues that would respect and advance their position.

Last week, the Provincial Board of Benguet held a hearing regarding the geothermal project in Daclan, Bokod. Based on their findings, they resolved that the FPIC process should be restarted in support of the claim of the residents that the first one held was questionable.

Historical Injustice

Residents said they have learned their lesson from the past when the resources of Benguet were exploited for “development projects.” They enumerated the “development projects” which included the Ambuclao and Binga dams that displaced their people, the mining of Mankayan and Itogon, and the San Roque Multi-purpose dam.

“We have learned that seemingly bright promises often turn out to be empty. More so, we have learned that there are no short-cuts toward the road to genuine development. We have learned that there is a need for careful, holistic, and well planned development projects,” the upland residents’ statement said. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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