Commendation to the people of Bakun in rejecting Hedcor Inc.

Read in: Iloco

The Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) extends its warmest congratulation and commendation to the people of Bakun through its elders and mass organization- the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization (BITO) in asserting their right over their ancestral lands and resources. They opposed the renewal of Hedcor’s permit to operate after the lapse of their 25 years of an unjust, deceitful and lopsided Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the energy company. Enough is enough! This is the clear message of the people of Bakun after enduring more than 25 long years of failed compliance of the MOA between them and the company. Failing to reach an agreement in the new negotiation with Hedcor Inc. for a just and acceptable terms of benefit-sharing, the host communities of Bakun through BITO passed a resolution of No-Consent to Hedcor Inc., strongly manifesting their collective will against the continuance of Hedcor’s operation. In the entire 25 years, the people have witnessed the insatiable greed of the Aboitiz–owned energy company multiplying its riches from the utilization of their water resources while the host communities made do with mere token as their share.

Even as the company deliberately evades the communities’ royalty share, it is unconscionable for Hedcor Inc. to unfairly force upon the communities its offer of 1.25 centavos per kilowatt hour while the company raked in billions of super profits making the Aboitiz family as consistently one of the richest Filipino billionaires! Indeed, the people’s stand to utilize their water resources for use in their gardens and rice fields instead will be many times more beneficial for increasing food production especially in this time of Covid pandemic.

Hedcor Inc. has been notorious in employing the same tactics of divide and rule and other sinister machinations in obtaining spurious approval of host communities for its hydropower plants in the Cordillera. This was the case in its Sabangan hydropower plant in Mountain Province. It has created division and mistrust among the people of host communities from the process of gaining the approval of the communities up to the sharing of benefits. It selectively chose one or two communities whom to share a pittance of a yearly compensation in disregard of the wide and far-reaching effects of these hydropower projects to the livelihood and ancestral lands of other affected communities. Downstream of the power plant, existing irrigation systems bypassed by the tunneled water were deprived of water source. Likewise, siltation of irrigation canals disturb and deprive the free flow of irrigation water to the rice fields. Upstream of the power plant, spring sources targeted to be tapped for potable household use are denied the people as it is alleged by the company to be within the water right of the power plant.

We stand with the Bakun people’s resolve in asserting their right to their ancestral lands and resources amidst the wanton land grabbing and plunder of foreign capitalists and their local agents who amass profits at the expense of host national minorities. We encourage them to further strengthen their unity and advance their struggle in all legal avenues available. However, our rich history of people’s struggles have taught us that unless we raise our struggle to a higher level and connect our local struggles to the ongoing national democratic struggle of the entire Filipino people, our gains can only go to a certain extent. The attainment of our aspiration for the genuine recognition of our right to self-determination and democracy can only be realized through the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective.

We likewise empathize with the workers who will be displaced if ever the hydropower plants ultimately close down. Along with the people of Bakun, they have similarly endured the exploitation and oppression of Hedcor all these years. Through their union or organization, we also encourage them to muster their organized strength to demand that the company give them all their duly earned compensation and accrued benefits satisfactorily. The workers like the farmers of Bakun belong to the working class who are both in the frontline of social production to keep the economy running. A fraternal dialogue can be worked out to agree on the ways to mutually cooperate in coping up with the situation. For those workers who are residents in the area, the community is customarily open to extend every assistance necessary for them to revert to farming.

For as long as the development and utilization of our ancestral lands and natural resources are not in the hands of the people but instead under the exploitation of imperialists and their local financial and trading agents from the ruling class, the interests and welfare of host communities in particular and the national minorities in general are just peripheral factors in their corporate financial equation. Only by joining the national democratic revolution to topple this semi feudal and semi colonial system lorded over by the bourgeois comprador class including the Aboitiz family, big landlords, bureaucrat capitalists, and their imperialist masters and carry on the socialist construction through genuine land reform program and national industrialization can we realize genuine benefits of our ancestral lands and resources.

Commendation to the people of Bakun in rejecting Hedcor Inc.