“Instead of protecting the indigenous peoples, the NCIP served as a bridge for the entry of destructive projects.”
By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Cordillera indigenous peoples called for the abolition of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) saying that the agency betrayed their interests.
In a protest action in front of the NCIP regional office, Oct. 20, tribe leaders from the six provinces of the region accused NCIP officials of selling out their ancestral land to large mining and energy corporations through the manipulation of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC).
Under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra) of 1998 requires the FPIC before approving projects affecting indigenous peoples land and resources.
The Cordillera indigenous peoples said that the energy and mining projects are detrimental to the environs of their ancestral territories.
Windel Bolinget, chairman of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said, “It is our culture to protect our land for our children and children’s children because we believe that land is life. A true Igorot (the Cordillera IPs) will not sell his birthright and will not hesitate to defend his ancestral homeland in whatever form he can from destructive corporate greed.”
Nestor Peralta, spokesman of the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) said NCIP officials are not listening to the opposition of Tinoc communities to the hydro power plant project of the Quadriver Corporation. Instead, Peralta said the NCIP officials and local government officials of Tinoc are forcing the people to sign the memorandum of agreement (MOA).
At least six hydropower projects have been awarded by the Department of Energy to Sta. Clara, Quadriver and Philnew Hyrdo Corporation in Ifugao.
In 2008, Quadriver, Sta Clara, NCIP and the Tinoc local government started to conduct activities and visits to the host barangays. In November 2012, the MOA for Eheb village was signed while Tukucan MOA was signed in July 2013.
In August 2014, the indigenous people of Tukucan and Eheb withdrew their signatures to the MOA and all other agreements in support to the Quadriver hydro project through a letter of retraction submitted to the NCIP.
“Amid the people’s protests, NCIP officials are still pushing for the continuation of the project. They (NCIP officials) are fellow IPs but instead of protecting out interests they are selling us to destructive corporations,” Peralta said.
In Benguet, the people of Kapangan shared a similar experience. They have been filing petitions before the NCIP national office questioning the issuance of a certificate precondition to the Cordillera Hydroelectric Corporation (Coheco) for a 50-megawatt hydro power project in their town.
David Aggulin, an elder from Kalinga, said that during the FPIC process, NCIP officials only talk about the good effects of energy and mining projects but did not present the negative effects on the environment.
“Instead of protecting the IPs, the NCIP served as a bridge for the entry of these destructive projects,” Aggulin said.
An elder from Conner, Apayao said the NCIP failed to protect their forests from corporate logging and rivers from black sand mining despite the people’s opposition to these projects. He said that these projects took over agricultural land and adversely affected the sources of irrigation of Apayao folks.
Esteban Ferraren, secretary general of Timpuyog ti Umili ti Lacub Bantayan Ekolohiya ken Kinabaknang (Tulbek), also accused the NCIP of railroading the FPIC process in favor of the Golden Lake Mining Company. He said that the local folk have filed a petition to the NCIP against the entry of the mining corporation in Lacub, Abra but the agency just dismissed their petition.
Ferraren added that the people opposing the entry of Golden Lake are even subjected to threat, harassment and intimidation by soldiers of the 41st Infantry Battalion.
In Mountain Province, Sabangan folk affected by the 14-megawatt hydro power project of Hedcor-Sabangan along the Chico River in Barangay Napua and Namatec of Sabangan town also claimed that there were violations to the FPIC process for the said project. Barangay Gayang also of Sabangan and the Napua Sabangan United Tour Guides Association have filed petitions to the NCIP calling for a stop to the project but the construction of the power plant is about to be concluded in the first quarter of next year.
Representatives of indigenous peoples from Betwagan, Sadanga also filed a petition against another proposed hydro power project of Hedcor along the Chico River that falls within their territory.
Nora Chulipa, acting regional director of NCIP Cordillera, said she cannot comment on the issues being raised by the protesters as she has just assumed office.
CPA’s Bolinget also assailed the NCIP for not lifting a finger against the continuing extrajudicial killing of indigenous peoples in the country. He said that justice has not yet been served for the killings of Cordillera leaders that include Marcus Bangit, Albert Teredano, and William Bugatti. (www.nordis.net)