ABOITIZPOWER Corp. unit Hedcor, Inc. has resumed the operations of its three hydroelectric facilities in Bakun, Benguet, after reaching a deal with indigenous groups, which earlier withdrew their consent for the power plants over a royalty dispute.

The hydro plants are the 2.4-megawatt (MW) Lower Labay, 3.6-MW Lon-oy, and 5.9-MW FLS hydro facilities.

“Hedcor’s (plants) resumed operations on July 28, 2021 and synchronized to the Luzon grid. This is following the successful conduct of a negotiation participated in by Hedcor, the Bakun Indigenous Tribe Organization (BITO), together with the local government officials of Bakun last July 27-28,” AboitizPower said in a regulatory filing Wednesday.

“The Bakun community will collectively receive about 14 centavos per kWh (kilowatt hour) of the generation of the Bakun Plants which is an aggregation of mandatory shares, voluntary benefits, and projects,” the firm said.

Under the Energy department’s Energy Regulation 1-94 program, power generating firms are required to give one centavo for every kilowatt-hour of sales to their host communities to finance electrification, livelihood and development projects.

In June, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR) served a halt order on Hedcor due to alleged issues in securing consent from the tribes. The Bakun groups requested a cease-and-desist order in April, which the NCIP’s regional office issued “as a legal and necessary consequence of a resolution of non-consent.”

NCIP-CAR Concurrent Director IV Marlon P. Bosantog has said that one of the main disagreements stems from royalty issues following the expiry of an initial deal signed in 1991.

On Wednesday, Hedcor President and Chief Operating Officer Rolando G. Pacquiao said the company will continue its partnership with the Bakun tribes for another 25 years.

“We are very grateful that the (community) expressed their support over the resumption of our operations in Bakun. We are equally thankful for the support of the NCIP-CAR in opening the doors to dialogue, and to the community for the opportunity to sit down and talk so that we can work on a resolution,” he said.

With the new agreement, Hedcor hopes to complete its FPIC (free prior informed consent) application and secure a certificate of precondition (CP), which will both be issued by the NCIP.

According to the Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) Rights Act of 1997, developers may secure permits and licenses only after receiving the CP, which expresses consent from the indigenous community hosting the project.

Hedcor, a wholly owned subsidiary of AboitizPower, operates 22 hydropower plants supplying the country with over 277 MW of renewable energy. — Angelica Y. Yang