Agencies pass blames on stalled Paracelis irrigation project

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Paracelis, Mountain Province –Passing the buck and finger pointing continues after the officials and elders of this far-flung eastern municipality blamed the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for the freezing of funds for the Upper Butigue Small Reservoir Impounding Project (SRIP).

This came about during the multi-agency consultation conducted here on August 26, 2016, in the presence of the municipal mayors and officials of the two municipalities of Natonin and Paracelis and Congressman Maximo Dalog.

An elder brought out the concern on the Upper Butigue SRIP initially citing the non-issuance of the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as reason for the non-continuance of the implementation of the big impact project as he asked for the status of and update on the project.

The Upper Butigue SRIP is a P1.2 Billion irrigation project that has a service area of 2,092 hectares in the barangays of Bananao, Butigue, Palitud and Anonat, and an additional 2,000 hectares in nearby Alfonso Lista in Ifugao could also benefit as service area of the irrigation project.

Nearly P100 million was initially released for the construction of the access road, institutional development works, surveys and provision of project facilities, and conduct of consultations to obtain FPIC.

Mayor Mateo Chiyawan of Natonin said that barangay Banawel has already signed the FPIC. The barangay chairman of Banawel affirmed the mayor’s declaration.

“The FPIC should not be the issue. Natonin is more affected as areas will be submerged but we have approved the FPIC. The problem lies in Paracelis,” he said.

Mayor Avelino Amangyen of Paracelis affirmed the statement of Mayor Chiyawan and committed to look into the matter to ensure the issuance of the FPIC.

It was clear during the consultation that the officials and people of the two towns know only of the FPIC as the problem and never referred to the processes along the way as contributory concerns.

The aldermen of the two towns agreed to issue a joint or separate resolution calling for the implementation of the project citing the benefits it would usher in for the beneficiaries and development of the communities.

In an interview at the provincial office of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Bontoc, it was learned that the problem is the requirement for the conduct of more consultations in other affected barangays other than Banawel in Natonin and Bananao in Paracelis. The FPIC of the barangays of Banawel in Natonin and Bananao in Paracelis were confirmed to have been submitted and made bases for the crafting of the Memoranda of Agreement.

Accordingly, a review of the Memoranda of Agreements between the stakeholders and the agency at the regional office of the NCIP was done and it was recommended that more consultations should be conducted in Barangays Butigue, Palitud, and Anonat, all in Paracelis to satisfy the requirements.

Atty. Wilson Kalangeg, legal officer of the NCIP provincial office and a member of the team that conducted the FPIC process, said that the guidelines call for ancestral domain-wide consultations not just the affected two barangays.

Thus, consultations will have to be conducted in the other three barangays of Paracelis as part of the ancestral domain inhabited by the tribe of Baliwon and the Balangao tribe of Natonin.

Engr. Leo Lamangen of the Satellite Office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in the province said that the consultations should not be conducted as there are already existing irrigation facilities such as canals, etc. in the other three barangays. Consultations have been made before the implementations of the said projects.

But the NCIP personnel said that the NIA contention was never cited in the reports to higher authorities, otherwise it would have generated different recommendation from the regional review team.

Sought for final actions, Kalangeg said that they have forwarded a program of actions, including budget required for the conduct of further consultations to the NIA which responded that it will consider the budget next year as they have no fund this year for the purpose.

The main budget required is for the meals of the participants in the consultations. A suggestion was made that the agencies concerned may coordinate with the LGUs and the officials for the provision of meals to fast track the conduct of the consultations.

The people and officials of Paracelis eagerly hope for the continuance of the project citing the development it would bring to the various communities once the project is operational.

“Paracelis will become the rice granary of the province as new service areas and the idle lands would be developed productively”, Lamangen commented.

By Roger Sacyaten

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