By Angelica Y. Yang, Reporter

THE Energy department told Hedcor, Inc. to carry on with the operations of three hydropower plants in Bakun, Benguet province after the Aboitiz Power Corp. unit was earlier sent a halt order by the government agency on indigenous peoples for alleged issues in obtaining consent from tribes.

In a statement on Tuesday, AboitizPower said it received a letter from the Department of Energy (DoE) dated June 25 advising its unit to “continue operating the Lower Labay, Lon-oy, and FLS hydro power plants due to the shortage of available capacity from the grid and de-rating of other plants.”

In its letter, the department cited an earlier advisory telling all power generation companies to ensure the maximum dependable power capacities and provide support for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine storage facilities and healthcare sites.

AboitizPower said the DoE pointed out that halting the firm’s hydro operations in Bakun would affect the roll out of Energy Regulation 1-94 (ER 1-94) funds, which depend on the kilowatt-per-hour generated by the plants.

Under the ER 1-94 program, power generating firms are required to give one centavo for every kilowatt-hour of sales to their host communities to fund electrification, livelihood and development projects.

AboitizPower said Hedcor is prepared and willing to sit in a tongtongan or gathering with the Bakun indigenous peoples (IPs) to address the issues.

“We recognize the concerns of our Bakun IP community, and our doors remain open for dialogue. We believe that the tongtongan is crucial to the resolution of this issue, not only to protect the welfare of our IPs, but also to fulfill our contribution to ensuring the availability and reliability of power supply for the country,” Hedcor Vice-President for Corporate Services Noreen Marie N. Vicencio said.

On Tuesday, Marlon P. Bosantog, regional director of National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), said representatives from his office and the DoE met to discuss the issue.

“According to them, that letter (dated June 25) does aim to stop the CDO (cease-and-desist order),” he told BusinessWorld in a mobile message.

“We will implement the CDO. Thereafter, we hope to rekindle the negotiations with Hedcor and the IPs,” he said.

Based on the halt order issued by NCIP-CAR on June 22, its lifting will be made only if Hedcor submits proof that it has secured the certificate precondition (CP) and the free informed prior consent of the Bakun IPs, as required by the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.

The IPRA states that project developers may acquire permits and licenses only after receiving a CP from the NCIP manifesting consent from the indigenous community hosting the project.

The CDO directed Hedcor to close its three hydro plants within five days after receiving the issuance.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the Senate energy committee, previously called on the DoE and NCIP to resolve the shutdown of Hedcor’s three hydro plants, saying these are needed to be up and running amid the threat of supply deficiency that could lead to power interruptions.

The three plants have a combined capacity of 11.9 megawatts (MW). Hedcor operates 21 hydropower plants supplying 258 MW of renewable energy.

On Tuesday, shares in Hedcor’s parent firm AboitizPower improved by 0.41% or 10 centavos to finish at P24.55 apiece in the local bourse.