Issue of January 3, 2021
     
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6 Benguet firms issued show-cause for unpaid royalties
by Jane B. Cadalig

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has asked six companies in Benguet to explain why they should not be held liable for violating a provision of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, particularly the payment of royalties to their host communities.

In a letter dated Dec. 22, 2020, NCIP-Cordillera Director Marlon Bosantog asked management of two mining companies and three hydroelectric power firms to show cause why they should not be held liable for not releasing the royalties of the indigenous communities (ICCs)/indigenous peoples (IPs) hosting their operations.

The NCIP issued the orders to Benguet Corporation; Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company; Apex Mining Corporation for the Itogon-Suyoc Resources, Inc.; San Roque Power Corp. for the San Roque Multipurpose Dam Project; Aboitiz Power Corp. for the Ambuklao and Binga dams; and Hedcor for the Sal-angan Hydro Electric Power Plant.

“It has come to our attention that the ICCs/IPs in the ancestral domain where your company currently conducts operations are not receiving royalties,” Bosantog stated in his letters to the companies.

“Section 7 of Republic Act 8371 or the IPRA recognizes, protects, and promotes, among others, the rights of ICCs/IPs to benefit and share the profits from allocation and utilization of natural resources found their ancestral domain and to receive just and fair compensation for any damages, which they may sustain as a result of the operation of a certain proponent entering the domain.”

The NCIP gave the companies 15 days from receipt of the letters to respond.

It said most of the information the office received from ICCs/IPs claim that companies situated within ancestral domains in Benguet are reaping the resources within the domains for decades now, but are not paying the royalties due their host IP communities.

Management of SNAP-Benguet said it has yet to receive formally the letter from the NCIP-Cordillera and had become aware of the matter only through reports and subsequent requests for comments from the media.

In separate statements, SNAP-Benguet and its subsidiary Hedcor, Inc., said they have been complying with the IPRA provision that mandates payment of royalties to the host communities.

SNAP-Benguet said the company has been providing benefits since 2008 to the IPs and ICCs that host the Ambuklao and Binga HEPPs in Bokod and Itogon, respectively. 

“The benefit is in the form of yearly funding provided to the IPs/ICCs, under the community investment program of the company, for priority projects identified by the IPs/ICCs themselves. The company also funds sustainability and special projects implemented in partnership with IPs,” the statement reads.

SNAP-Benguet said to date, P69 million worth of funds for community development, special, sustainability, and sponsorship projects have been provided to the IPs/ICCs out of the Ambuklao and Binga operations.

Hedcor, Inc. meanwhile said it has been complying with the provisions of the IPRA and will “collaborate with NCIP-Cordillera to address any issues raised.”

“In the 40 years since the construction of the power plants in the Cordillera, Hedcor has been proactively engaging with its host community partners. It has largely contributed to the socio-economic development of the communities by providing local employment opportunities and by directly investing in the local education, health, and other key social infrastructure,” the statement added.

“Hedcor is committed to its promise of advancing business and communities and it hopes to continue this promise through, among others, good partnership with the indigenous peoples hosting its power plants in the region.”


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