The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) reiterates that the National Irrigation Administration – Region 2 violated the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affected communities in the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project. NIA Region 2 has been claiming that there was no opposition to the project and that FPIC was sought but CPA sees this as a big lie.
According to CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget, “What local opposition is NIA Region 2 talking about? If it is true that there is no local opposition, why is it that NIA Region 2 was not given a Certificate of Precondition as required by the 2012 FPIC Guidelines? Why did it not disclose to the public the contents of the onerous loan agreement and that a Chinese contractor and Chinese workers would implement the project? Why did it start construction without Environment Compliance Certificate from DENR-CAR if there are no local impacts? How can NIA Region 2 say that there are no local opposition and no local impacts if these basic requirements necessitated by law are not complied with and which they themselves have outrightly violated?”
“There is lack of full disclosure of information about the project. The affected communities in Pinukpuk, Kalinga were only informed that this is an irrigation project, which of course is what they need like the rest of the peasants in the country. And we are one with the peasants in demanding for free irrigation but this must not come with a debt trap. Let us not forget that the loan agreement between the governments of China and the Philippines for the project is onerous and unconstitutional and favors only China,” said Bolinget.
“The project beneficiaries in Pinucoc favored the project due to its need for irrigation. But the other communities in the ancestral domains of ‘Pinukpuk’ and Magaogao indigenous groups, other communities in Pinukpuk town, the province of Kalinga, and the Filipinos are opposed to the project since the Filipino nation will be the one to pay back the loan. Had the affected communities known that a Chinese contractor and Chinese workers will implement the project, they might have immediately registered their protest,” added Bolinget.
There was no FPIC prior the project construction and signing of the loan agreement. A Certificate of Precondition is the final stage of the FPIC process, which is issued upon compliance of all the requirements for an FPIC and is issued prior to the entry of a project in an indigenous territory. “The fact that no Certificate of Precondition was issued clearly shows that there was no FPIC for the project. And issuing a Certificate of Precondition or FPIC at this stage when the project construction has already advanced is a violation of FPIC and insult to indigenous peoples,” said Bolinget.
“For sure, the NCIP En Banc will circumvent the FPIC process and fast track the issuance of the Certificate of Precondition to cover up its FPIC violation when it convenes on May 22. But all these are simply acts of FPIC manipulation, which we fear will set a precedent to other projects. So even if NCIP will issue a suspension order on the project, such suspension is useless. NCIP is just trying to resolve a violation by committing another violation,” added Bolinget.
NCIP has a track record of manipulating FPIC in favor of corporate projects. It has been serving as an instrument of the State in systematically violating our collective rights as indigenous peoples. CPA challenges the NCIP to stop violating FPIC and uphold its mandate of advancing indigenous peoples’ rights.
“We call on NIA Region 2 to respect indigenous peoples’ right to FPIC, stop the construction of the anomalous Chico River Pump Irrigation Project until the many issues sorrounding the project are resolved, and seek for the full scrapping of the loan agreement between the governments of the Philippines and China for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project,” ended Bolinget.
Myra dela Cruz
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance