AMID the 34th Cordillera Day celebration, the Cordillera People's Alliance said it will draft an action plan to save Chico River from a planned government irrigation project.
“They want to color the Chico red again. Lalabanan yan (we will oppose that). There is no Free Prior and Informed Consent for that because the loan agreement has just been signed,” said Windel Bolinget, chair of the Cordillera People’s Alliance.
Bolinget said there have been numerous Cordillerans who offered their lives to save the Chico River as he affirmed their struggle to keep the area safe from exploitation.
Pangat (chieftain) Macliing Dulag died fighting against the construction of the Chico Dam in Kalinga. He was murdered on April 24, 1980, when soldiers belonging to the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division under Lt. Leodegario Adalem fired at his home in their village in Bugnay, Kalinga.
Dulag has been hailed a hero and his death led to the celebration of Cordillera Day.
Bolinget said during the time of strongman Ferdinand Marcos, elders stood their ground to prevent the exploitation of the Chico River. They are willing to do the same today.
“It was not easy then, but it was done, we believe it can be done today,” he said.
The CPA, in a statement, denounced the signing of the P3.135-billion loan agreement for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project by the Philippine and Chinese governments last week, describing it as “The latest move of the Duterte regime in its sell-out of our natural resources and ancestral lands to foreign investors, without consent from affected communities.”
The Chico River PIP is a flagship infrastructure project under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, with a total project cost of P4.3 billion.
Top officials from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) signed the P4.3 billion contract with China CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd for the Chico River PIP last March 8.
“The plunder of our river and resources is equivalent to tyranny,” Bolinget said.
The project seeks to create canals diverting the water from the Chico River into different areas in Tuao and Piat Cagayan and Pinukpuk in Kalinga.
According to the Department of Finance (DOF), the interest rate on the US Dollar denominated loan is 2 percent per annum with a maturity period of 20 years including a seven-year grace period.
This year’s Cordillera Day celebration, which will be held at the Pacday Quino Elementary School in Barangay Asin Road from April 22 to 25 will tackle the different issues currently affecting Cordillera indigenous peoples, including the tyranny of the Duterte regime themed “Cordillera Peoples’ Caravan against Tyranny.”
Recently, the San Lorenzo Ruiz builders and Developers Group Inc. project along the Chico was opposed by indigenous groups in the area.
The project was for the 52-megawatt (MW) hydroelectric dam project along the Chico River, spearheaded by Oscar Violago of Nueva Ecija under Karayan Incorporated.
Opposition include members of the Naneng, Dallak and Minanga sub tribes and the residents of sitio Banat, Bagumbayan who have land directly to be affected by the project.
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples regional director Ronald Calde has ruled to resolve all impasses before proceeding with the project.