NIA rejects IP commission’s suspension order on Chico irrigation project

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Instead of suspending its ongoing work in the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, the National Irrigation Administration suggested the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to immediately issue the certification precondition for the facility.

But the office will order the contractor to “limit construction activities” in the site of the pump house according to the undated letter signed by NIA Senior Deputy Administrator Abraham Bagasin.

“The ongoing construction of the pump house is very critical in consideration of the upcoming rainy season,” said Bagasin.

He explained that halting the construction will “cause great damage to the Government.”

The letter was the official response of the irrigation office to the May 3 letter of NCIP Cordillera to temporarily stop the construction activities pending the deliberation and issuance of the certification precondition.

NCIP Cordillera acknowledged receiving the letter but did not present details of its content.

“The reply, though was already received by the office, was left at the [regional director’s] office awaiting his appropriate action. [The regional director] was at Manila the whole week,” said Rocky Ngalob, FPIC focal person.

Certification to be issued soon

NCIP Cordillera chief Roland Calde has earlier said that NIA verbally committed to “abide to suspend and to move all their earthmoving activities to Cagayan areas except security and maintenance of facilities, pending the issuance of Certificate Precondition.”

According to him, the documents submitted by NIA are “being reviewed now by the central office and hopefully [to] be deliberated this month.”

He also disclosed that NCIP will issue the Certification Precondition “the soonest and probably this month. “

Commissioner Gaspar Cayat revealed during the May 7 joint committee of the Cordillera Regional Development Council that the Commission is set to convene on May 22-24 to deliberate the Certification Precondition for the project.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) cautioned the NCIP that ruling for the issuance of the Certification Precondition regardless of the violations committed by the proponent will set a “dangerous and catastrophic precedent.”

Condoning the violations

CPA said the belated action of NCIP intends to hide the fact that “the Commission condoned and continue to turn a blind eye” to the violations in the implementation of the project. The group believes that the Duterte administration wants to fast track the completion of the project because of the many issues that are surfacing.

NIA gave the notice to proceed with the earth-moving and construction to China CAMC Engineering, Ltd. in September last year without completing the FPIC process. But even before this, NCIP Kalinga already flagged a violation committed by the proponent.

According to the March 18 report submitted by the FPIC Team, that on June 18, 2018, the NIA made the affected individuals’ sign “The Individual Rights of Way Permit to Enter and Construct.” This was contrary to the reminder given by the NCIP that no activities should be conducted within the domain until the issuance of the Certification Precondition.

In the May 7, the participants resolved that NIA violated the free, prior and informed consent process. This was in connection with the conduct of construction and other activities within the Punukpuk and Magaomagao domains without first securing the Certification Precondition.

Under Section 3c of the 2012 FPIC Guidelines states that “no concession, license… or other undertaking affecting ancestral domains shall be granted or renewed without going through the process laid down by the law and these Guidelines.

The legal office of NCIP Cordillera also affirmed that until there is no Certification Precondition, there should also be no issuance of a permit for construction or any other activities within indigenous peoples’ land. # nordis.net

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