KIDAPAWAN CITY -- The rally staged since Monday by a group of natives in a village in this city against the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) was politically-motivated, a tribal chieftain in North Cotabato said.

EDC is the owner of two biggest geothermal power plants located at Mount Apo.

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Datu Lucio Serrano, member of the Council of Elders of the Manobo Apao Descendants Ancestral Domain of Mount Apo (Madadma), alleged that Vice Governor Manny Piñol, a gubernatorial candidate in North Cotabato, was behind the mass action led by a group of Manobo natives from Barangay Balabag in Kidapawan City.

The village is claimed by the natives as part of their ancestral domain.

"Some of the natives that I've talked with do not know why they were invited to join the rally. They thought they were going to attend a political rally of the Piñols of North Cotabato,” Serrano said.

Serrano is among the claimants of the Certificate of Land Title (CADT) that covers the villages of Balabag and Ilomavis in Kidapawan City and a village in nearby Magpet town in the province.

The natives that held picket rally and barricaded the entrance to the Mindanao Geothermal Production Field of EDC were led by Barangay Balabag chair Datu Eduard Umpan, also a claimant to the CADT.

Umpan, according to Serrano, is a known political ally of Piñol.

Ephraim Umpan, chair of the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay Balabag and son of Datu Eduard Umpan, admitted that Piñol was supporting them of their protest action.

"We are here waiting for any instructions from Vice Governor Piñol. He supports our move," said Umpan in an interview.

During the session of the Provincial Board of North Cotabato held Tuesday in this city, Piñol, who chairs the legislative council, said he and his brother, Cotabato Representative Bernardo Pinol Jr., have been supporting the natives and the peoples' cry for a separate power line for the province from the geothermal plant.

"We are supporting the move in our capacity as private individuals and as taxpayers," Piñol said.

Since Monday, some 300 natives from Barangay Balabag set up a barricade at the entrance of the EDC that prevented the employees from entering the plant.

Their demands included a separate line for North Cotabato and a subsidy for the natives of Barangay Balabag from the income of the EDC.

At present, the only village that benefits from the royalty payments of the EDC is Barangay Ilomavis.

As host of the geothermal plant, the village gets 35 percent of the share from the royalty tax.

The Kidapawan, as host city, gets 45 percent of the share, while North Cotabato, as host province, gets 20 percent share.

The figures, according to Barangay Ilomavis chair Damaso Bayawan, was based on a provision of the Local Government Code of 1991.

"If we cite the Local Government Code as basis, the Barangay Balabag has no right to claim subsidy from the EDC," Bayawan said.