Chico River irrigation project lacks NCIP nod, commissioner says
The Chico River Pump Irrigation Project is financed by a loan agreement from China. Work on it started after inauguration late last year.
Philippine News Agency, file

Chico River irrigation project lacks NCIP nod, commissioner says

Artemio Dumlao (Philstar.com) - May 16, 2019 - 2:18pm

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has called for a temporary stop to the Chinese-funded $4.3B Chico River Pump Irrigation Project along the boundary of Pinukpuk, Kalinga and Tuao, Cagayan, a commissioner said.

Until the NCIP issues certification required by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the project has to stop for now "because that is the law," said NCIP Commissioner for Region 1 and CAR Gaspar Cayat.

Under IPRA, government offices and agencies are "strictly enjoined from issuing, renewing, or granting any concession, license or lease, or entering into any production-sharing agreement, without prior certification from the NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain."

The NCIP can issue that certification after a field investigations but not without the free and prior informed and written consent of the indigenous cultural community or indigenous people affected.

On April 30, the NCIP en banc ruled to suspend the irrigation project and directed its Cordillera offices to issue a cease-and-desist or suspension order because it lacked the necessary free and prior informed consent (FPIC) from affected indigenous peoples in Kalinga.

NCIP-Cordillera issued a suspension order against the National Irrigation Administration on May 3.

The NCIP's Legal Affairs Office in Quezon City declined to comment on the reported suspension, saying it is a matter for the commission's regional office. The commission's Office of the Executive Director likewise could not comment on the suspension.

Both offices confirmed that there was a meeting on the project last week.

The requirement of the FPIC must be fulfilled because "we cannot allow a repeat of the rebellion against the Chico Dam project in the 1970s," Commissioner Cayat explained, referring to widespread opposition to the dam project that led to attacks on activists and the death of Butbut leader Macli-ing Dulag in 1980.

NIA: Work on project reduced

According to a letter to the NCIP from the National Irrigation Administration, though, construction of the pumphouse "is very critical in consideration of the upcoming rainy season."

It said that if work on it is stopped, "all works already accomplished in the said structure will be in vain and will cause great damage to the government."

Instead, NIA Senior Deputy Administrator Abraham Bagasin said, the NIA will issue a directive to the project contractor "to limit construction activities specifically in the pumphouse area."

Work will be limited to "maintenance and subsidiary works," NIA said.

It also said that NIA "earnestly requests the immediate issuance of the Certification Precondition in as much as we had already complied all the requirements."

Cayat: IPs must be consulted

Cayat said that President Rodrigo has been clear that "even if the project is under the 'Build, Build, Build' program, indigenous peoples must be consulted and their consent on projects affecting them must be obtained."

The Chico River Pump Irrigation Project is financed by a loan agreement from China. Work on it started after inauguration late last year.

But Commissioner Cayat said the NCIP has not issued certification for the project for work to commence nor was there endorsement from the commission.

The NCIP will meet with the NIA from May 22-25 to discuss the suspension order, Cayat said.
Affected IPs are also questioning 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) since the upstream of the Chico River is in Pinukpuk, Kalinga.

The Chico River Pump Irrigation Project is expected to irrigate some 8,700 hectares of agricultural farms in Tuao, Cagayan and Pinukpuk, Kalinga. Of that land, 7,100 hectares are in Cagayan Valley and only 1,700 hectares is in the Cordillera region.

"(But) water comes from upstream Kalinga," Cayat argued, "then they get water from Region 2."

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