By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — The largest and oldest existing regional alliance in the Cordillera questioned the “feasibility and sustainability” of the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP) in Kalinga province.
Cordillera People’s Alliance said in a statement issued on Thursday, March 7 that the planners of the project “did not take into account the overall development plan of the Chico River and the province of Kalinga, such as the building of many hydropower, geothermal and mining projects.”
“There is no assurance the facility will be able to irrigate the projected service area because they failed to consider man-made factors that may affect the water level of river which will make the facility useless in the long run,” explained CPA chairperson Windel Bolinget.
This came more than a week after Makabayan senatorial bet Neri Colmenares last week exposed the “onerous” content of the leaked loan agreement for the project, and cautioned about its “disastrous” implication to the country.
Bolinget said there are 10 proposed hydropower dams along the Chico River system based on latest list of awarded hydropower projects by the Department of Energy.
“During the dry season, most of the water will be stored in the reservoirs, which in turn will worsen the scarcity of water supply in the downstream area including where the CRPIP will operate,” he added.
Bolinget pointed out that Kalinga is target for several large-scale mining and geothermal projects that will draw the huge water requirement for their operation from the tributaries of the Chico River.
The CPA head also underscored the failure of the government to consider natural occurrences such as dry spell and drought that drastically decreases the volume of water of the river.
He cited the findings stated in the CRPIP Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that in the projection of water stability, the impact of climate change was not given attention.
Administrative Order No. 2003-30 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources defined EIS as “a comprehensive study of the significant impacts of a project on the environment… includes an Environmental Management Plan/Program that the proponent will fund and implement to protect the environment.”
EIS is required for the application of an Environmental Compliance Certificate from the Environment Management Bureau.
Bolinget is also concerned that the project will deprive downstream communities of water supply for their farms during summer.
“At present, Kalinga farmers suffer from agricultural damages due to lack of water for irrigation during drought and summer due to the decreased volume of water in the Chico River. In this case, it is doubtful that the CRPIP will be able to supply its target beneficiaries during summer and drought,” he said.
Based on the technical details, the required volume to irrigate the 8,700 hectares targeted for the facility is nearly equivalent to the lowest discharge of the river recorded in Feb 2013.
CRPIP is the first flagship infrastructure project of the Duterte regime under its Build-Build-Build program financed by the government of China. The loan covers 85% (P3.6 billion) of the P4.37 billion total project cost that includes the construction of a pump house, transmission line, diversion canals, access road, and terminal facilities. # nordis.net / Photo courtesy of NIA-CAR