NCIP issues halt order to 3 Hedcor hydro plants

A REGIONAL office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has issued a halt order to a unit of Aboitiz Power Corp. that operates three hydroelectric power plants in Benguet province for alleged issues in obtaining consent from indigenous tribes.

In a stock exchange disclosure on Wednesday, AboitizPower said a cease-and-desist order was issued by the NCIP Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) claiming “irregularities” in the free prior informed consent (FPIC) memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by its unit Hedcor, Inc. and the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization on Oct. 15, 2019.

The affected plants in the province’s Bakun town are the 2.4-megawatt (MW) Lower Labay, 3.6-MW Lon-oy, and 5.9-MW FLS hydro facilities, which the NCIP-CAR wants Hedcor to shut down within five days after it receives the order.

Hedcor said it had complied with all the conditions when it sought the FPIC.

“We believe that we have been compliant with all the requirements during the course of the FPIC application process, and have been waiting for the issuance of the Certificate Precondition (CP) since the FPIC-MOA was signed,” Hedcor’s Vice-President for Corporate Services Noreen Marie N. Vicencio said in a statement.

The certificate is issued by the NCIP and signed by its chairperson, affirming the concerned communities’ consent after compliance with requirements.

Hedcor said it was saddened by the order to shut down its hydro operations in Bakun as it had made efforts to come into a dialogue with the indigenous tribes and the NCIP.

“At this time of a red alert situation in the Luzon grid, the continued operation of our plants is very crucial,” Ms. Vivencio said.

Hedcor said it would continue to actively reach out to the community for a customary tongtongan or a dialogue with the tribes, under the NCIP’s guidance.

BusinessWorld reached out to the NCIP’s regional office, which confirmed receipt of the questions via e-mail, but has not yet replied as of press time.

In 2012, the NCIP said that “no concession, license, permit or lease, production-sharing agreement, or other undertakings affecting ancestral domains shall be granted or renewed if they do not go through the process set by the law and the 2012 guidelines on the FPIC and related processes.”

Hedcor manages and operates 21 hydropower plants while supplying the country with 258 MW of renewable energy.

Shares in Hedcor’s parent firm AboitizPower inched down by 1% or 25 centavos to finish at P24.65 apiece on Wednesday in the local bourse. — Angelica Y. Yang

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