This undated photo shows Hedcor’s Ampohaw Hydro in Benguet.

AboitizPower told to stop Benguet hydro plants after community backlash

Ramon Royandoyan (Philstar.com) - June 23, 2021 - 12:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — Aboitiz Power Corp. will stop the operations of some of its hydropower plants in Benguet amid resistance from indigenous people there.

In a regulatory filing on Wednesday, the listed power unit of the Aboitiz Group said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in the Cordillera Administrative Region issued cease and desist order to three run-of-river hydropower plants run by Hedcor, a subsidiary, in Bakun, Benguet.

These three power plants, namely Lower Labay Hydro, FLS Hydro and Lon-oy Hydro, contribute a total of 12.4-megawatt output to the Luzon grid. NPIC gave AboitizPower five days to halt operations following the order, but the company said it is still reaching out to the tribal communities for a dialogue.

The halt order was handed down on June 22 and pointed out supposed irregularities in a "Free Prior Informed Consent-Memorandum of Agreement" between Hedcor and the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization (BITO). The deal was signed in October 2019.

“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,” said Hedcor’s Vice President for Corporate Services Noreen Vicencio.

AboitizPower did not immediately respond when asked to elaborate the supposed irregularities in the agreement. But in the Philippines, many indigenous communities have resisted big renewable energy projects in their ancestral lands.

Prior to the issuance of cease and desist order, the NCIP earlier this month issued a notice of violation to Hedcor’s operations in Bakun for “unauthorized and unlawful” intrusion into indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain. The notice came after a meeting of community leaders, municipal government officials and a lawyer of NCIP on June 7.

BITO has been against Hedcor’s hydro-plant operations so much so that they’ve issued a resolution of non-consent.

AboitizPower targets a 50:50 balance between its renewable and thermal portfolios by 2030.

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