NATIONAL Commission on Indigenous Peoples–Cordillera regional director Ronald Calde said only a court order can stop the controversial Chico River project in Kalinga.
“They [opposition] could file a TRO (temporary restraining order) in a regular court. But we will be issuing a letter of possible temporary stoppage pending issuance of Certificate of Precondition (CP),” Calde said.
He defended the project, saying the “FPIC process was conducted, and MOA between the NIA and ICC/IPs was signed June 2018 and awaiting certificate only from the en banc.”
FPIC refers to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, the right of indigenous peoples to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories.
Calde also asserted “there was a consultation since the FPIC process was conducted but they should have waited for the issuance of certificate precondition before proceeding with the project. The delay was due to signing of individual contracts from NIA.”
Opposition is being raised against the Chico River project, with critics saying the consultation done was not legitimate.
“It is not genuine Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). There was no CP before the construction. Many did not know about project design and other details. There was no full disclosure about the project, including the loan agreement. FPIC should be secured prior to commencement of project,” the Cordillera People's Alliance said in a statement.
The P4.37-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP), the first flagship infrastructure project to be financed by China under President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program, has already started and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
Funded by a soft loan from the China Exim Bank and to be implemented by the China CAMC Engineering Company, Ltd., the Chico River PIP aims to irrigate 7,530 hectares in Tuao and Piat, Cagayan and 1,170 hectares in Pinukpuk, Kalinga benefitting 4,350 families.
The 20-year loan deal for CRPIP was signed by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of China Zhao Jianhua and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez on April 3, 2018.
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, the interest rate on the U.S dollar denominated loan is two percent per annum with a maturity period of 20 years including a seven-year grace period.
The Makabayan Bloc has likewise filed a case at the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of making patrimonial assets as collateral will be raised as well as agreements on automatic appropriation as the deal takes away the power of the purse from the Congress.