BAGUIO CITY – Two Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) committees refer to the lessons learned from the Chico River Pump Irrigation project to address the concerns on the proposed Ilocos Norte-Ilocos Sur-Abra Irrigation Project (INISAIP) that will source water from the Abra river. The Infrastructure Development Committee and the Watershed and Environmental Management Committee conducted separate meetings on February 13 and 18, respectively, to get updates and give inputs on the project which is initially designed to benefit mostly the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Previously, the National Irrigation Administration met with the Abra Provincial Development Council where Abra Governor and RDC Chair Joy Bernos raised the need to ensure project benefits shall be shared by the host communities in Tineg, Abra. With the benefits of irrigation in the Ilocos region and the inclusion of a hydroelectric turbine in the project, the province should also be compensated for the environmental services.

In the meeting of the RDC Infrastructure Development Committee on February 13, the office of Governor Bernos shared that NIA must get the free, prior, and informed consent of the affected communities. It was added that Governor Bernos requested changes to the project to benefit the province. Infrastructure Committee Co-Chairman Peter Rey Bautista reiterated that the host communities, where the water is coming from, must be consulted.

In the meeting of the RDC Watershed and Environmental Management on February 18, members recall the lessons learned from the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project where the RDC identified existing national policy issues. One concern is that an Environmental Compliance Certificate is only issued where majority of the project area is located. In this case, consultations were only initially done in Cagayan even if the source of the water for irrigation and the majority of the pump infrastructure is in Kalinga. NIA acknowledged this and committed to address concerns of all stakeholder communities even at the feasibility study stage.

The Cordillera Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017-2022, acknowledges that the Cordillera is the main contributor to the Luzon power grid and a major source of irrigation for the nation’s most productive rice farming provinces. With 13 major river basins, CAR is the Watershed Cradle of North Luzon. The RDP also encourages public-private partnerships in tapping the potential of the region to develop hydro-projects.