Kalinga elders OK tunnels for Chico irrigation project
BAGUIO CITY — The construction of tunnels at Kalinga province for the China-funded Chico Pump Irrigation Project has been allowed to continue after it was granted a certification that it had the consent of the indigenous Filipino community there, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples said.
Following the testimonies provided by elders of Kalinga’s Pinukpuk town, the NCIP sitting en banc on Thursday (May 23) approved the Certificate Precondition of the project administrator, the National Irrigation Administration, said Roland Calde, NCIP Cordillera director, on Friday (May 24).
The document stipulates that the project acquired the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the community living in their ancestral domain where Filipino and Chinese workers have been constructing tunnels that would direct water from the Chico River to 1,170 hectares of rice farms in Pinukpuk and 7,500 hectares of farms in the Cagayan towns of Tuao and Piat.
At the start of May, the Cordillera office of the NCIP had suspended work on the Kalinga side of the project because NIA allowed the contractor to start work without the mandated FPIC clearance.
NIA was reprimanded during a subcommittee hearing on indigenous affairs that was held on May 7, Calde said.
But the suspension order “is deemed lifted,” Calde said, following the en banc decision, after the commissioners heard the Pinukpuk elders manifest that they accept the project because the community “needs irrigation.”
Groups like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance have criticized the government project for failing to consider the negative impact it may have on the communities near the 175-km river. Chico River’s headwaters begin in Mountain Province, traverses Kalinga before it empties into Cagayan Valley.
Members of the Makabayan bloc have challenged the constitutionality of the irrigation project before the Supreme Court, due to alleged onerous terms in the government’s P3.6-billion loan agreement with China Eximbank that violate the country’s sovereignty.
Chico River became the symbol of Cordillera opposition to the Marcos dictatorship in the late 1970s and early 1980s when villagers of Kalinga and Mountain Province blocked all efforts to build a series of dams there.
The Duterte administration has described the Chico River project as one of the major projects of its “build, build, build” infrastructure program. (Editor: Leti Z. Boniol)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.