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Chico River irrigation project suspended

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By Freddie Lazaro 

PINUKPUK, Kalinga — The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has temporarily stopped the $4.3-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project on the border of Pinukpuk, Kalinga and Tuao, Cagayan.

The suspension will continue until a certificate of precondition (CP) is acquired by the project’s proponents, said NCIP Commissioner for Region 1 and CAR Gaspar Cayat.

Officials of NIA, Chinese government, Province of Kalinga and Cagayan lead the groundbreaking ceremony of Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Brgy. Pinococ, Pinukpuk, Kalinga on June 8, 2018. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL IRRIGATION ADMINISTRATION-CORDILLERA ADMINISTRATIVE REGION / MANILA BULLETIN)

Officials of NIA, Chinese government, Province of Kalinga and Cagayan lead the groundbreaking ceremony of Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Brgy. Pinococ, Pinukpuk, Kalinga on June 8, 2018. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL IRRIGATION ADMINISTRATION-CORDILLERA ADMINISTRATIVE REGION / MANILA BULLETIN)

Last April 30, the NCIP en banc suspended the project and directed its Cordillera offices to issue a Cease-and-Desist Order (CDO) because the project lacked the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) from affected indigenous peoples in Kalinga.

A suspension order was issued by the NCIP-Cordillera against the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) on May 3.

The FPIC must be fulfilled because “we cannot allow a repeat of the rebellion against the Chico Dam project in the 70s,” Cayat said.

President Duterte made it clear that even if the project is under his administration’s “Build Build Build program”, indigenous peoples must be consulted and their consent on projects affecting them must be obtained, Cayat said.

The Chico River Pump Irrigation Project is a loan agreement from the Chinese government. Work on the project started late last year.

The NCIP summoned the NIA to a meeting on May 22-25, Cayat said.

The NCIP’s legal department is also studying charges against the contractor of the project for violations of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), he added.

The tribes affected by the project scored NIA for failing to secure an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EBM-CAR), because the upstream of the Chico River is in Pinukpuk, Kalinga.

The project is designed to irrigate 8,700 hectares of agricultural farms in Tuao, Cagayan and Pinukpuk, Kalinga, although over 7,100 ha will be located in Cagayan Valley and only 1,700 ha are within the jurisdiction of the Cordillera, all of which are in Pinukpuk town.

“(Since) water comes from upstream Kalinga,” Cayat argued, “then they get water from Region 2.”

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