KIBUNGAN, Benguet—Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan will initiate a congressional inquiry into the alleged illegal activities of a Korean businessman who is reportedly earning millions of pesos at the expense of the province’s indigenous peoples for a renewable energy project.
Cosalan said a certain Larry Kim, who was the former majority shareholder of the Kapangan-based Cordillera Hydroelectric Development Corp., allegedly sold his shares to Filipino investors after his company was able to secure the free and prior informed consent of the affected indigenous peoples and the pertinent permits from the concerned government agencies that resulted in a juicy deal.
The three-term lawmaker said after selling his Coheco shares, Kim allegedly established another renewable energy company, now known as the Coheco Badeo Corp. The firm is proposing to operate a 500-megawatt pump storage hydro power plant in Barangay Badeo here, which affected land owners and indigenous peoples in the town’s ancestral domain are opposing.
“We should not allow this kind of practice of foreign businessmen who just want to enrich themselves at the expense of indigenous peoples in our province,” Cosalan said. “We should join forces to put a stop to these illegal activities because it is the right of the indigenous peoples over their domain that is being compromised while the foreign investors and their Filipino cohorts are the ones enriching themselves.”
Cosalan is wondering why Kim wants to have another hydro project approved when the 60-megawatt project in nearby Kapangan has not yet started. He expressing doubt on “the integrity, credibility, and capacity” of the Korean businessman to pursue the project.
He added it is again likely that after Kim’s group secures the consent of the indigenous peoples in Kibungan and the permits from the concerned government agencies, they will again sell their shares of their firm “at the expense of the embattled indigenous peoples in the area.”
The solon said he already wrote the Bureau of Immigration to probe the validity and legality of Kim’s stay in the country, as well as his potential interests in other renewable energy companies that intend to operate in Benguet.
If warranted that Kim should be deported, Cosalan said he will contact the concerned government agencies for his deportation to South Korea.
The lawmaker said the Bureau of Internal Revenue should also investigate the business interests of Kim to compel him to pay the right taxes to the national and local governments.
Cosalan pointed out government agencies should not allow foreigners to be involved in illegal business activities in the country, “because it is the Filipinos who end up suffering from the serious negative consequences of their environmental-critical projects.”
He called on government agencies to protect the interests of Filipinos over their domain, “instead of being the ones facilitating the circumvention of the existing laws, rules, and regulations to advance the interests of foreigners wanting to exploit, develop and utilize the country’s rich resources.”