Kapangan’s waters-A A +A
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
LAWYERS Jingboy Atonen and Cruzaldo Bacduyan should sit down together and get rid of their squabble over COHECO’s bid to build a 60 megawatt (MW) hydro facility in Kapangan, Benguet. Initially, I thought their fight was petty, one that could be solved by a few rounds of beer. But recently, their spat went on a notch higher.
The dashing Atonen is the lawyer of COHECO (Cordillera Hydro Electric Corporation (COHECO) while the more serious Bacduyan heads the AALOAI (Amburayan Ancestral Land Owners Association, Inc.) and GIEDCO (Green Indigenous Environment Development Corporation). What earned Atonen’s goat was Bacduyan’s charge that COHECO’s project might be used as a front to spot potential mineral resources to be explored.
Jingboy says that’s foul. He says that nowhere in COHECO’s permit shows that it included mineral exploration. He is miffed. He says Bacduyan is desperate. He just feels Bacduyan is all out to see to it that COHECO would fail. Take note that the NCIP is all set to conduct an FPIC process on the COHECO project and the company finds Bacduyan’s allegation ill timed. COHECO’s project, by the way, seeks to tap waters traversing 15 barangays in Kapangan and seven barangays in Kibungan for a large hydro electric power plant. Bacduyan and his group are leading the opposition.
Bacduyan is up in arms. He says COHECO’s project seeks to build a nine kilometer tunnel with a diameter of 4.2 meters from Barangay Cuba in Kapangan up to the site of the proposed power plant at Sitio Sa-ep in Barangay Badeo,Kibungan. He says the plan would alter the natural terrain of the areas to be affected and would put in peril the people’s water resources and sources of livelihood. Bacduyan says the tunnel in particular would snuff out the life of the community since the water supply would be depleted and the stability of the mountains and surface areas would be compromised.
But Atonen says the project has considered the welfare of the community. That’s why he pleads before Bacduyan’s group to let the FPIC process to proceed so that all issues raised against the project will be addressed. Bacduyan and Atonen formerly worked at the provincial legal office. Those were good times. But now they are at loggerheads over the COHECO project.
I believe cooler heads should prevail. Without prejudice to the issues raised and the conduct of an FPIC (free prior and informed consent), I guess there’s no harm in trying to convene the barangay chairmen of all the affected barangays to a dialogue. Or hold a “tungtung” as we say in kankna-ey so that the elders and senior officials can come in to settle the divide between the groups the two lawyers represent.
I have yet to hear Mayor Robert Canuto’s take on the issue. Also the Sangguniang Bayan. They must step in. If the project will work wonders for the folks, why not indorse it. If the project is really dangerous to the environment and would jeopardize the interests of the community, then junk it.
I am aware that the GIEDCO has its own plans. Last year, the group, in elaborate cultural festivities, launched its own mini hydro project and announced it has even partnered with a foreign firm. The project targets to generate 4.8 MW of electricity. It seeks to build two plants -- Pudong I which aims to generate 3 MW, and Pudong II which targets to produce 1.8 MW. We have to ask Cruzaldo about the status of the project.
Why am I dipping my hand into this story? Because it concerns energy. As a BENECO employee, I am keenly watching the developments since any mini-hydro to be put up in Benguet would raise the concern on who or which entity will buy the power to be produced. Of course BENECO would be the potential and logical client. This will ripen into negotiations.
The other reason is that I am from Kapangan too. Mind you, I also value my place and roots. I also marvel at Santa Claus etched on Mt. Dakiwagan.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 09, 2013.