While the Motion for Reconsideration of Gened-1 was pending in 2021, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) continued the consent process for the larger Gened-2 dam project. NCIP proceeded despite appeals from the communities to postpone any Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) activities.
On Dec. 18, 2021, a consensus-building session organized by the NCIP in Barangay Luttuacan almost erupted into a violent dispersal of more than 1,000 Isnag who were barred from joining the activity. (See main story: Collusion, corruption allegations hound dam projects in last nature frontier of the Cordillera)
Jann Alexis Lappas, a member of the Kabugao Youth, said only about 200 of the handpicked “elders” were allowed entry to the venue, while five community leaders opposing the project were allowed to participate only as “observers.”
Police in full riot gear and carrying high-powered rifles were deployed to regulate the entry of people to the venue. After the event, the NCIP declared that the “voting elders” agreed to negotiate with Pan Pacific.
FPIC Team Leader Atanacio Addog justified the police actions as precautionary measures, citing the alleged presence of communist terrorist groups during the previous stages of the FPIC.
“That is a lazy reasoning straight from the playbook of Bosantog and clearly intended to divert attention from complaints of falsification and forgery of Gened-1,” said Kabugao Youth’s Jillie Karl Basan.
Five days later, over 2,000 Isnag gathered at Poblacion, the center of Kabugao, and signed a Resolution of Non-Consent to Gened-2.
“We have done this over and over again. Thousands of Isnag are saying no to the dams, yet NCIP is deaf to us, but not to its selected few,” lamented Basan.
On the same day, the Kabugao IP added Geoffry Calderon, NCIP head in Kabugao, to the list of personae non gratae on Kabugao ancestral domain, the third lawyer to earn the dubious distinction. (See related story: NCIP red-tags IP members)
Almost two months later, on the evening of Feb. 5, 2022, a Saturday, a member of the FPIC Team headed by Calderon attempted to have a letter received by the municipality’s supervising administrative officer at her residence.
The letter dated Feb. 4, 2022 sought to inform Kabugao Mayor Bensmar Ligwang of the conduct of “initial negotiation, drafting of the Memorandum of Agreement, and probable signing” of the proposed Gened-2 on Feb. 6 to 8 in Barangay EKB.
The officer, however, declined since it was beyond official working days and outside the town hall. Carter Ayabo, a member of the FPIC, ended up sending the letter via email.
Ligwang officially received the communication on Feb. 7, Monday, and he responded by disallowing the gathering since the province was under Covid-19 Alert Level 3.
In his response, Ligwang lectured the FPIC team on the need for a community assembly and posting of notices prior to a MOA signing, as stated in the FPIC guidelines.
He also said his office was under the impression that “the community already rejected the proposed Gened-2” through its Resolution of Non-Consent.
“May we be apprised as to why the NCIP decided to disregard the said resolution and proceed without community consultation,” wrote Ligwang.
No response was received from NCIP.
On March 31, the community again filed a motion for reconsideration on the release of the Certification Precondition for Gened-2.
The NCIP, through its regional office, and Pan Pacific, have not responded to requests for comment sent by the PCIJ.
Top photograph by Karlston Lapniten