Two Bakun barangays want more from Hedcor, Inc.
By Atty. Antonio P. Pekas
Circulating in the grapevine is the petition of two brangays in Bakun, Poblacion and Sinacbat, for the mayor of the town not to issue a business permit to Hedcor, Inc. unless it secures a clearance from the said barangays that host the company’s operations. The permit should allow the company to operate its hydropower plants there.
The move to withhold the granting of a business permit is a part of the negotiation techniques for the company to agree to the terms of the barangays and the town. Specifically, the host barangays and the town would like a bigger share from the returns or profits of the hydropower outfit. On the other hand, the company would like to maximize its profits from its operations. How all these will play out is something so many stakeholders are waiting for.
Meantime, the company issued a statement regarding the move of the two barangays which follows:
Hedcor, Inc. respects the joint resolution issued by Barangays Poblacion and Sinacbat, but will have to defer to the Municipality of Bakun for any response as this was addressed to the Municipal Mayor’s Office.
However, Hedcor maintains its position that the issuance of the business permit and barangay clearance should not be conditioned on and is separate and distinct from any support program voluntarily made by the company on top of its legal obligations.
In light of this, Hedcor reiterates its commitment to being a partner to its host LGUs in promoting the common good and welfare of its local and IP communities.
On October 15, 2019, the Free Informed Prior Consent (FPIC) MOA was signed between Hedcor, Inc. and the Bakun Indigenous Tribal Organization (BITO) which detailed the benefits-sharing and defined the responsibilities of the parties in compliance with RA 8371, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997. Hedcor is in constant collaboration with the NCIP, and looks forward to the culmination of the FPIC process through the issuance by NCIP of the Certificate of Precondition, so that the agreed benefit-sharing laid out in the FPIC MOA can be implemented in accordance with rules and regulations of the FPIC. Likewise, on January 16, 2020, the Energy Regulation (ER) 1-94 MOA was signed between the Municipality of Bakun and Barangays Poblacion and Sinacbat, on direct financial benefits to host communities of energy-generation companies for projects programmed in the areas of development and livelihood, reforestation, watershed management, health or environment enhancement. In 2020, these ER 1-94 funds have become accessible to Hedcor’s host communities to aid in the COVID-19 response. For the Municipality of Bakun, the ER 1-94 funds were used to improve quarantine facilities, purchase of personal protective equipment for frontliners, and procurement of medical and laboratory supplies.
In spite of the closure of operations that was ordered by Mayor Raymundo in July 2020 due to the non-processing of Hedcor Inc.’s business permit following the expiration of the 25-year Memorandum of Agreement on voluntary shares (“MOA”), Hedcor remains hopeful that the Municipality and the Barangays will reap the benefits from the hydropower generation that Hedcor can afford.
Hedcor also confirms its commitment to complying with all national and local government requirements to operate and will continue to fulfill its obligations as mandated by law.
Hedcor’s position is consistent with the guidance and opinion of the DILG-CAR in a letter to Hedcor, Inc. dated December 9, 2020 which stated that “the issuance of licenses or permits shall only be pursuant to law or ordinance and the municipal mayor is bereft of the authority to impose additional conditions on the issuance, renewal, or continued validity of a business permit other than what the law and/or ordinance provide”. DILG-CAR underscored further that “absent any express requirement, the pending negotiations on the renewal of the MOA should not impede the renewal of Hedcor’s business permit if those provided for by existing laws, rules and regulations are completely submitted”.
As dialogues with the Office of the Municipal Mayor continue, Hedcor trusts that both parties will arrive at the most meaningful, reasonable, and sustainable terms to provide additional support to the constituents of Bakun.
It is Hedcor’s hope that we continue to get the Municipality’s support in allowing the continued operations of the company’s hydropower plants so that it can deliver much-needed and uninterrupted power supply to the public, especially as the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
A solid partnership with the LGU helps ensure Hedcor’s unhampered operations, which is crucial to protecting the mandatory benefits for Bakun and guarantees that these are fully provided to the host communities.**