Majority of Apayao’s Isnag tribe members, representing all 22 barangays in Kabugao municipality, support a plan to build a hydroelectric power plant in their area that will not only bring jobs, livelihoods, and development for their future generations, but also turn the province into a driver of renewable power in the country.
Norman Batoon, President of the Kabugao Isnag Indigenous People’s Organization, said that the Isnag tribe believes that Pan Pacific Renewable Power Phils. Corp’s planned investment in the Gened 2, 250-megawatt hydroelectric power plant in Kabugao, will be critical to the country’s renewable energy future and aligned with their vision of development that gives a place to all IPs in the province.
“A renewable, reliable, and affordable source of electricity has a huge implication for Kabugao, and majority of members of our community have come to realize that. It’s not only the country that will benefit from it–we ourselves will benefit greatly, and so will the rest of our province,” said Batoon.
“Apart from providing us electricity for our homes and communities, a project like this will let us leapfrog other provinces, especially since renewable energy is the wave of the future. All over the world, many countries are moving more and more towards renewables. The Philippines is headed there, too. So we will be in a good position. We will get good jobs, better livelihoods, and someday, our younger generations can be educated and trained to run the facility themselves,” he added.
Batoon said that true economic development in the area may even lead to end the harmful practice of kaingin or slash-and-burn farming still practiced by some members of the Isnag tribe.
Kaingin is blamed for soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, and is also known to contribute to climate change.
“We know that we have to discontinue the age-old practice of kaingin because it is not sustainable. It is destructive to our environment. However, for some this is the only livelihood they know. We believe that the establishment of this hydro power plant will help us preserve our ancestral domain, while filling our need for electricity, and pursuing sustainable development to benefit all members of the community,” Batoon explained.
Batoon said the group came up with the decision to negotiate with Pan Pacific last Dec. 18, 2021 following several public consultations and discussions with professional consultants in the field of law, environmental safety, engineering, and commerce, from the various sectors of Apayao.
Batoon said that all 22 barangays of Kabugao, with a total population of 16,250, are ready to negotiate with the proponent of the hydroelectric project.
“This decision to establish compensation for affected members of our community of the project, as well as a fair and equitable share from its operations, has not yet been effectively amended, nor retracted by anyone,” he said.
He also reiterated that the status, duties and obligations of the identified and authorized elders and leaders of the ancestral domain of Kabugao were affirmed and confirmed by a majority of the ISNAG Indigenous Peoples/ISNAG Indigenous Cultural Communities.
This, after few residents of Barangay Poblacion sent a request f or the conduct of a separate FPIC to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)–an unprecedented act in the history of the agency.
“Only our elders and leaders represent the ancestral domain of Kabugao when it comes to matters not only regarding the application process for the hydroelectric power plant, ”Batoon said.
He added that majority of the Isnag tribe, either in favor or against the project, attended open and public consultations that were held with due notice at Barangay Dibagat last July 16, 2021, at Brgy. Madatag on July 15 and 22, 2021), and Tuyangan last July 19, 2021.
The consultations are required by law prior to any construction of facilities within the Kabugao ancestral domain.
These public consultations are part of the process to secure Free Prior and Informed Consent from the NCIP, consistent with the provision of Administrative Order No. 3 series of 2012 or the Rules on Free Prior and Informed Consent Process.