Tawid News Magazine

IP group condems NCIP for approval of Chico irrigation facility

BAGUIO CITY — The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) condemned the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for setting aside its own mandate to “accommodate the onerous and anomalous” Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP).

In an en banc session last week, the NCIP commissioners agreed to issue the Certification Precondition for the China-loan funded facility. The approval came amid the call to suspend the construction of the project for violations committed during the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process.

NCIP Cordillera chief Roland Calde admitted earlier that had the proponent been a private entity, the commission would have issued a stoppage order for the project for proceeding with its construction work without the
Certification Precondition.

“The actuation by NCIP en banc further proves that the commission is an instrument to allow the massive destruction of ancestral lands, violate indigenous peoples’ rights, and favor the greedy interests of big business, plundering politicians and foreign powers,” said CPA chairperson Windel Bolinget.

“We hold the NCIP accountable for this betrayal of its mandate and reiterate our demand to abolish the NCIP. We also hold accountable the Duterte regime and its imperialist bosses in China for selling the future of this country and its national patrimony,” he said.

The Kalinga office of NCIP submitted the complete FPIC report on April 30 and the Regional Review Team gave its report on May 8. This was a day after the Regional Development Council Committees on Indigenous Peoples Concerns and Infrastructure Development affirmed the procedural breach made by NIA.

Based on NIA Region 2 and NCIP reports, activities within the Kalinga domains covered by the project started as early as September last year. However, the NCIP only called the attention of NIA on May 3 through a request letter to suspend the construction works.

The irrigation office rejected the request and instead urged the NCIP to release the certification immediately and continue its limited work in the area citing possible losses to the government.

Bolinget also asserted that the commission has no authority to decide on and issue the Certification Precondition since they are serving in holdover capacity.

“They do not have any mandate to decide based on its internal rules. Their decision is null and void, thus the certification precondition is invalid,” Bolinget said.

Sought for comment, Commissioner Gaspar Cayat said the en banc decision is valid.

He said Malacañang released a legal opinion on the holdover capacity of officials. The commissioner explained that they exercise the vested power of their office “until their successors had been appointed and assumed office.”

Nordis asked for the copy of the legal opinion mentioned but the commisioner has yet to provide the copy as of this posting.

NCIP regional director Roland Calde backed Cayat.

He pointed that “nothing in the hold over order diminishes the power of the commission en banc to approve or not any certificate precondition.”

“Nonetheless, we will answer the protest when the same will be submitted,” he said.

He also urged CPA to take into account the stand of the affected communities that the NCIP and the National Irrigation Administration claim to have requested for the immediate implementation of the project.

The irrigation facility is the flagship project under the Build, Build, Build program of the Duterte government. Once complete, it is expected to water 8,700 and produce more than 55,000 metric tons of rice per cropping.

Juan Dammay, chairperson of Alyansa ti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Peasant Alliance in the Cordillera Homeland) said it is the mandate of the government to provide free and efficient irrigation service. However, they underscored that the government can respond to this without entering onerous loan agreement, undermining Philippine sovereignty and violating indigenous peoples’ rights.

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