Throughout the year, Northern Dispatch covered how indigenous people’s groups questioned the government and corporate sector’s adherence to the principles of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). The manipulation of the process and violations committed by government agencies and the private sector were among last year’s top stories.

Government offices, particularly the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) emerged as the top violators of the guidelines in the reports.

Indigenous peoples groups scored NCIP-Cordillera Administrative Region for numerous instances that it set aside steps in the FPIC guidelines to accommodate government and corporate projects. Aside from controversial endorsement of the regional office for the approval of the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP), people also criticized its Kalinga provincial office for questionable conduct.

Tribes in Kalinga also questioned the impartiality of NCIP personnel in the province concerning the Upper Tabuk Hydropower Project (UTHPP). The affected tribes criticized the NCIP for excluding some of them from the validation process of the petition they submitted against the project. Tribe members further doubted the fairness of the provincial personnel after they conducted the signature validation for the petition and community consultative assembly on the same day. The field office also issued a certification to the proponent Daniel Peckley, Jr. despite the lodged appeal and unfinished FPIC process. The document said: “the majority of the affected [ancestral domains] gave their consent on the proposed project.”

Indigenous peoples in Ifugao also filed a petition before the NCIP, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources against are Alimit Hydroelectric Complex. Leaders from several villages of Lagawe and Lamut town trooped to the regional office of DENR and NCIP to submit their petition paper on February 20. They said they were “not convinced and satisfied” with the explanation SN Aboitiz gave in the past village consultations and expressed concern over possible “boundary conflicts” and “damage to biodiversity” that the project may cause. Community representatives from Lagawe and Lamut towns of Ifugao reiterated their position against the project on December 16 after NCIP failed to respond to their earlier petition.

Meanwhile, NIA scored two strikes — its Cagayan Valley office violated the FPIC process for the CRPIP, and its Cordillera regional office again committed a breach for its Alfonso Lista Pump Irrigation Project (ALPIP). NIA-CAR started constructing the facility in 2012 but only applied for the Certification Precondition on March 1, 2017. However, like what happened with the CRPIP, the 5-year gap between the construction and FPIC process recognition did not suffice for NCIP to suspend the project.

These reports substantiated the statement delivered by the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP) during the Regional Consultation on International Standards on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in November last year. The group noted that the NCIP has “fallen way below and even violated its own mandate of protecting indigenous peoples’ rights.” # nordis.net

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