GROUPS have condemned the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for giving a green light to the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP).
The NCIP approved in en banc meeting last week the issuance of a certificate of precondition, which is needed for the P4.37-billion project to continue.
The CRPIP is the first flagship infrastructure project to be financed by China under President Rodrigo Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" program. It spans Kalinga and Cagayan areas.
But Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera People's Alliance, said the group will continue to protest and hold the NCIP accountable.
"The NCIP en banc should have been reconstituted early this year and they are just acting in a hold-over capacity. Therefore, they do not have any mandate to decide based on its internal rules. Their decision is null and void, thus, the certification precondition is invalid," Bolinget said.
He said the actuation by NCIP en banc further proves that the commission is an instrument to allow the massive destruction of ancestral lands, violate indigenous peoples' rights, and favor the greedy interests of big business, plunderous politicians and foreign powers.
"We hold the NCIP accountable for this betrayal of its mandate and reiterate our demand to abolish the NCIP. We also hold the Duterte regime and its imperialist bosses in China for selling the future of this country, its national patrimony," Bolinget added.
At the Supreme Court, groups have questioned the constitutionality of the loan agreement between the Philippines and China in the hopes to get a temporary restraining order.
"We condemn the NCIP for violating and circumventing its own rules to accommodate the onerous, anomalous, and unconstitutional China loans of President Duterte in the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project. The violations to the FPIC in order to fast-track the CRPIP should merit its scrapping, or at the minimum, immediate suspension until all issues and violations ate cleared," Bolinget said.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has also confirmed that 66 Chinese workers were hired by the Chinese contractor for the construction of the tunnel and pumping station, the completion of which is targeted before the end of 2019. Once completed, the services of most of these Chinese workers will be terminated.
NIA clarified that there are 347 Filipino workers, mostly hired from the area.
The NIA said the Chico project has a total service area of 8,700 hectares to be provided with a substantial and timely water supply for irrigation.
A total of 4,350 farmer-beneficiaries and their families will benefit from the project. It is projected to provide 14,784 jobs during its project implementation and 8,700 permanent jobs when it becomes operational.