NIA asked to secure IP consent for Ifugao irrigation project
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — A nearly completed irrigation project that would draw water discharged by Magat Dam in Isabela province to farms in Alfonso Lista town, Ifugao province, must be suspended until its proponents secure a certification that they had acquired the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the residents, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) said last week.
The government-funded Alfonso Lista pump irrigation project was designed to irrigate 2,300 hectares of farmlands in the villages of Santo Domingo, Namnama, Namillangan and Calupaan.
It was supposed to have been commissioned in 2017 but was delayed due to funding problems. Its budget ballooned from P850 million to P1.31 billion in 2018 due to the increase in prices of construction materials.
As of May 15 this year, the project was 87 percent complete, according to National Irrigation Administration (NIA) records.
“Considering the extent of the development already implemented by NIA, our office deemed it necessary to inform them of the procedural breach and request them to hold the project in abeyance pending the issuance of the certification precondition (CP),” said Rocky Ngalob, NCIP Cordillera focal person on matters involving FPIC.
The CP would signify that the project proponent had completed the FPIC process and had been permitted by the ancestral land owners to proceed.
On June 11, NCIP Cordillera Director Roland Calde wrote NIA Administrator Ricardo Visaya, asking him “to suspend or limit its construction activities if possible,” until the FPIC process was completed.
The NIA started work on the project in 2012, but it undertook the FPIC process only in March 2017.
The NCIP took the same action against the China-financed Chico River pump irrigation project in the provinces of Kalinga and Cagayan on May 3, for the absence of an FPIC document.
Weeks after the NIA slowed down work in Kalinga, the NCIP en banc approved the CP for the Chico pump project.
The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (Republic Act No. 8371) requires developers using ancestral lands to secure IP consent before they can proceed with construction. —Kimberlie Quitasol
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