Issue of October 14, 2018

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NWRB scraps case vs water permit of Coheco Badeo firm
by Harley F. Palangchao

The National Water Resources Board has dismissed the case filed  by three individuals claiming to be members of an indigenous peoples’ group against the water permit application of Coheco Badeo Corporation, the developer of a 500-megawatt pump-storage hydropower project in Kibungan, Benguet.

In a six-page decision issued on Aug. 16, the NWRB dismissed the protest for “lack of merit,” and gave “due course” to the water permit application (WPA) of the corporation.

Coheco Badeo filed its WPA with the NWRB on Nov. 23, 2016 to use a determined volume of water of the Amburayan River for power generation.

The NWRB has subsequently endorsed Coheco Badeo’s WPA to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for determination of the issuance of the certificate precondition that, by law, would allow the company to proceed with its proposed 500-MW Kibungan pump-storage hydropower project in Barangay Badeo located within the ancestral domain of Kibungan.

The three petitioners have asked the NWRB to deny Coheco Badeo’s WPA alleging, among others, that the certificate precondition from the NCIP is a requirement in filing a WPA. They further alleged that the proposed hydropower project would displace the IPs of Kibungan and will deprive them of their source of drinking water and irrigation, fishing, and gold panning activities. They further alleged that they have not given their consent to the proposed project.

The NWRB in its deliberation of the case took note of the fact that the grounds relied upon by the protesters are matters within the jurisdiction of the NCIP. Thus, the only issue resolved by the NWRB was whether it could process and approve the WPA of Coheco Badeo pending the issuance of the certificate precondition by the NCIP.

The NWRB noted that the certificate precondition from the NCIP is not among those required by Section 5 of the “Amended implementing rules and regulations of the Water Code of the Philippines” upon filing of a WPA.

However, in recognition by the NWRB of the necessity of a certificate precondition, it adopted the “Policy guidelines on granting of water rights over surface water for hydropower projects” in 2013. This policy provided for the granting of a conditional water permit (CWP) to a water permit applicant pending submission to the NWRB of the certificate precondition from the NCIP.

The certificate precondition, however, must be submitted within two years from the issuance by the NWRB of a CWP prior to the granting of a water permit.

Thus, the NWRB dismissed the protest and permitted the processing of Coheco Badeo’s WPA, until it has been issued a conditional water permit.

In the matter of other allegations in the protest, the field-based investigation (FBI) conducted by the FBI team of the NCIP on Coheco Badeo’s application for a certificate precondition found out that there are no individuals, families or communities that will be displaced or deprived by the proposed hydropower project.

Further, of Kibungan IPs will continue their traditional use of the Amburayan River.

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