BAGUIO CITY – A fact-finding meeting on Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP) was held on May 7, 2019 at the RDC Hall in Baguio City to clarify issues concerning the project. Members of the indigenous peoples’ concerns and infrastructure committees of the Regional Development Council (RDC) as well as National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Commissioner Gaspar Cayat, NCIP Executive Director Rogelio Bantayan, Jr., the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), and the CRPIP implementers from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) discussed the history of the project and the steps undertaken to correct lapses in the process and address the concerns of the people on the ground such as the alleged lack of consultations and payment of compensation.

Rocky Ngalob of NCIP-CAR presented the agency’s findings regarding allegations of the lack of consultations among the affected indigenous cultural communities in Rizal and Pinukpuk. Ngalob pointed out that a Certificate of Precondition as proof of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the community was applied for as early as 2014. The FPIC process was followed but only after NCIP-CAR issued a memo in 2017. Ngalob explained that the long delay between the application in 2014 to the actual start of informing the community and getting their consent was delayed because NIA lacked the proper documents to proceed with the FPIC process.

Community consultations, negotiations, and eventual agreement-signing were conducted from June 2017 to January 2018. Disturbance compensation was also provided according to NIA. However, the project broke ground as early as June 2018 even when a certificate of precondition had not yet been issued to NIA, citing as justification the signed memorandum of agreement with the respective landowners. For any project involving ancestral domains, a certificate of precondition is a requirement to start.

As reported by NIA, the project benefits mostly Cagayan areas with only 1,170 hectares out of the 8,700 hectares to be irrigated in Pinukpuk, Kalinga, specifically barangays Katabbogan and Pinococ. Also in June 2018, the Cordillera RDC passed a resolution requesting NIA to include more Kalinga communities as beneficiaries of the CRPIP since the waters come from Kalinga and the Cordillera region. NIA responded to the RDC Resolution saying that the additional areas cannot be irrigated due to their higher elevation. He also committed to raise the matter of further compensating the communities of Pinukpuk to the RDC Executive committee. Comm. Cayat and Exec. Dir. Bantayan committed to raise the matter of fast-tracking the issuance of the certificate of precondition in the NCIP en banc meeting scheduled this May.

A rally calling for the suspension of the project was held by the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) outside the NEDA-CAR compound. The chairman of the CPA was asked to join the meeting but he respectfully declined.

The RDC created the fact-finding body during the 1st Quarter joint meeting with the Regional Peace and Order Council in Bontoc, Mountain Province on March 19, 2019. It is part of the RDC adoption of “rights-based environmental governance which entails the recognition of IP rights in resource use and management” as found in the Declaration of Principles on Environmental Governance and the region’s pursuit of autonomy.