Elders want Chico irrigation project to serve more farms | Inquirer News
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Elders want Chico irrigation project to serve more farms

RIVER OF LIFE Chico River, which runs through Mountain Province, Kalinga and Cagayan provinces, is a source of food and irrigation water, and a place of recreation for riverside communities. —EV ESPIRITU

LAGAWE, IFUGAO — Elders of Kalinga province have asked the government to modify the scope of a P4.4-billion irrigation project harnessing the Chico River and expand its coverage.

Government should also guarantee that communities here would not be displaced by the Chico River pump irrigation project (CRPIP)—the first to be built at Barangay Pinococ in Pinukpuk town in Kalinga using Chinese loans, said Andres Ngao-i, who heads the province’s council of elders.

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Chinese and local contractors are expected to put up a 42.6-kilometer diversion channel and main canal, and a 98-km lateral canal by 2021 to bring Chico River water to farms.

Kalinga residents assurance

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The CRPIP will irrigate 7,530 hectares of farms in Tuao and Piat towns in Cagayan province, but only 1,170 ha in Pinukpuk, where the water will be drawn and distributed using pumps and canals, Ngao-i said.

“The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) should remember that the intake of the pumps is located at the tip of Kalinga but the headwaters are located farther, in the heart of the province,” he said.

The elders said Kalinga residents need to be assured that the CRPIP would not be a repeat of the aborted Chico River dam project during the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Fearful of being relocated, communities of Kalinga, Mountain Province and other Cordillera provinces opposed the project. That triggered a northern Luzon opposition front against the Marcos dictatorship in the 1980s.

Upris coverage

Tabuk City administrator Laurence Bayongan, another elder, said Kalinga officials were briefed on the project days before its groundbreaking ceremony in Pinukpuk on June 9.

For many officials, the project was similar to the Upper Chico River Irrigation System (Upris), which was designed to irrigate farms in Cagayan and Isabela provinces, Bayongan said.

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Farms in Kalinga, a top producer of rice and corn in the Cordillera, were eventually included in Upris coverage when the province complained, he said.

Heeding the elders, the Regional Development Council and the Regional Peace and Order Council agreed to ask the NIA and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol about reworking the irrigation project to include more farms.

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TAGS: Chico River, elders, irrigation project, Kalinga province
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