By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) decided to issue the Certificate of Precondition (CP) for the controversial Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP).
NCIP Cordillera director Roland Calde confirmed that the commission en banc approved the issuance of the certificate yesterday, May 23.
This came in spite of strong criticism from indigenous peoples groups for the outright violation of the free, prior and informed consent guidelines by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
“This (the violations) was only committed by NIA and we reiterated to them… the need [for] compliance on the FPIC process,” he said.
NIA proceeded with the earthmoving and construction stage for the project, as early as September last year, without securing first the Certificate Precondition, a prerequisite for any undertaking within indigenous peoples’ lands.
Asked if the commission en banc came out with a resolution to ensure that such incident will not occur for future government projects, Calde said the commissioners did not discuss any.
But he added that the agency will “strengthen our coordination with all other agencies to ensure compliance on the process” as a matter of corrective measure.
NCIP Cordillera requested NIA-Region II to suspend its work in the site pending the issuance of the Certification Precondition on May 3. The Regional Development Council Committee on Indigenous Peoples Concerns backed this during its May 7 meeting. However, in both instances, the NCIP gave assurance to fast track the processing and issuance of the Certification of Precondition.
NIA rejected the request citing the critical stage for the pump house construction and great damages to the government. The office instead urged the NCIP for the immediate release of the document.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance said the approval of the Certification Precondition for the project showed that NCIP has no plan of really upholding the guidelines nor protecting indigenous peoples’ rights.
“NCIP tried to correct a mistake with another mistake. It is adding insult to injury,” Sarah Dekdekden, the CPA secretary-general said.
The group earlier cautioned NCIP that issuing the Certification Precondition despite the procedural breaches committed by NIA creates a “dangerous precedent.”
The P4.3 billion project is set for completion in three years and irrigate 8,700 hectares in Cagayan and Kalinga provinces. It is the first among the China-funded undertaking under the Build, Build, Build program of the Duterte government. # nordis.net