Agency on indigenous folk takes issue with China-funded project
TABUK CITY — The Chinese contractor of the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project that is being constructed on ancestral domains has failed to get the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of affected communities, according to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Kalinga province.
Lawyer Catherine Gayagay-Apaling, NCIP Kalinga director, said the Cagayan Valley office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), which is supervising the Chico pump project, had not acquired an FPIC certificate.
The certificate is a precondition for any development project on ancestral domain.
“The FPIC process is still ongoing,” Apaling told the Inquirer.
The project would channel water to 7,530 hectares of farms in the Cagayan town of Tuao and 1,170 ha of farmland in Pinukpuk town in Kalinga.
First flagship project
It is the first flagship infrastructure project to be financed by China under the Duterte administration.
A $62.09-million denominated loan from China covers 85 percent of the project’s total contract amount of P3.69 billion, according to the Department of Finance (DOF). The total project cost is P4.37 billion.
Interest rate, maturity
The DOF said the Chinese loan carried an interest of 2 percent a year, maturing in 20 years inclusive of a seven-year grace period.
According to a March 18 FPIC status report, the NIA had applied for a certificate of precondition in September 2014, two years before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office.
Apaling said the FPIC process began in March 2017 and the certificate would be released once the Kalinga communities consent to the project.
She said the FPIC process was delayed because the NIA had failed to give the NCIP a copy of a memorandum of agreement with the owners of property that would be affected by the pump project.
“[The] NIA agreed to pay affected lot owners a disturbance compensation,” Apaling said.
“We told affected [Kalinga families] during community dialogues not to allow any construction activity—not even an access road—until the FPIC process is finished,” she said.
But the owners allowed the construction [to proceed], Apaling noted.
She said the FPIC process should involve every family living in the domain, but many households living far from the project site allowed the villages of Pinukpok and Kattabogan to make the decision for them.
The Makabayan bloc in Congress will question the constitutionality of the Chinese loan agreement for the project, said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate on Saturday.
A petition, to be filed on April 3 in the Supreme Court, will also seek a restraining order against the irrigation project.
The key issue being challenged before the court is the Presidents’s authority to use the country’s patrimonial assets as collateral for a $62-million loan from the China Exim Bank, Zarate said.
“While there is automatic debt appropriation [which would cover the Chico River loan], we still need to review this Marcosian law,” he added.
Zarate said Congress had yet to see the contents of the loan agreement.
“We, the Filipino people, have the right to know the contents of the agreement. What is the collateral,” he said at a Bayan Muna assembly in Baguio City.
Review loan contracts
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday said the Senate should scrutinize the loan contracts that the President recently signed.
Drilon issued the call after Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio disclosed that the government used the country’s patrimonial assets as collateral to borrow money from Beijing.
“I agree that we should review these loan agreements since many are saying that these are unfavorable for the Philippines,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
Drilon noted that Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had canceled government projects in Malaysia, including a railway system, funded by borrowings from China due to unfavorable terms of the agreements. —Reports from Kimberlie Quitasol and Marlon Ramos
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