BAGUIO CITY– The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) ordered the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to suspend the ongoing implementation of the $4.3 billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in the border of Pinukpuk, Kalinga and Tuao, Cagayan until such time that the agency is able to fulfil the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process mandated under the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
NCIP Commissioner Gaspar Cayat said NIA must comply with the position of the Commission to suspend the ongoing implementation of the multi-billion dollar project and comply with the required FPIC process to secure the consent of the affected indigenous peoples (IPs) living along the stretch of the Chico river, especially in upstream Kalinga before pursuing the project.
Funds for the implementation of the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project came from a loan agreement between the Chinese and Philippine governments which was signed between top officials of the two countries last year.
“We want the whole process to be perfected so that the implementation of the project will not encounter unnecessary delays in the future because of the impending benefits of the irrigation project to thousands of farmers from Kalinga and Cagayan once completed,” Commissioner Cayat stressed.
The NCIP-CAR official asserted that once the NIA will not adhere to the directive of the Commission to suspend the ongoing works on the project, the required certificate of pre-condition (CP), one of the government requirements for the implementation of high impact development projects, will not be issued that will cause some problems in the release of the loan by the Chinese government.
The decision of the Commission to direct the suspension of the pum project implementation was an offshoot of the snowballing clamor from IPs in Kalinga for the concerned government agencies to first secure the consent of the affected IPs through the required FPIC process which was never done during the conceptualization and planning of the project.
Affected IPs also questioned the NIA for its alleged failure to secure the required Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of the project from the Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EBM-CAR) considering that the upstream of the Chico River that falls under the jurisdiction of Pinukpuk, Kalinga will be part of the areas that will be traversed by the facilities of the project.
The Chico River Pump Irrigation Project will irrigate some 8,700 hectares of agricultural farms in Tuao, Cagayan and Pinukpuk, Kalinga wherein over 7,100 hectares will be located in the Cagayan Valley and only 1,700 hectares is within the jurisdiction of the Cordillera, all of which are in Pinukpuk town.
The project was inaugurated late last year and the Chinese contractor that was commissioned to work on the same started to work on the implementation of the initial works amidst the opposition raised by the IPs of Kalinga over the non-compliance of the implementing agency to the required FPIC process as mandated by existing laws. By HENT