Locals protest Duterte admin’s Chico River project

Frank Cimatu

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Locals protest Duterte admin’s Chico River project
The P2.67-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project is seen to boost the country's agricultural production, but some tribes fear that it will adversely affect their communities

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to approve 9 mega-infrastructure projects amounting to P738 billion when he convenes the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board.

The most important for the Cordillera is the P2.67-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.

NEDA sees the Chico project as among the 3 large-scale projects that can boost the country’s agricultural production.

The project will irrigate 8,700 hectares of agricultural land and will benefit 4,350 farmers in 21 barangays in Cagayan and Kalinga.

Critics of the project, however said it raises the specter of the World Bank-funded Chico River Dam during the Marcos era in the 1980s, which threatened to flood thousands of hectares of Kalinga land. The opposition to the said project was one of the issues that hounded the Marcos dictatorship.

The present project under the National Irrigation System is said “to provide water for irrigation through the construction of new diversion and canal systems, to increase agricultural productivity and farmers’ income and to generate employment.”

Once started, the project will be finished in 3 years.

Local opposition to the project, however, has started to grow. The Naneng, Dallak, and Minanga tribes have written a letter to the National  Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)  in the region about this project.

“This land is our source of our living and also where we buried our ancestors,” the letter said, similar to the appeal made by the 1980 opposition including Kalinga peace-pact holder Macliing Dulag.

“We are afraid that rebellion will arise and blood will be shed like what happened to some members of our subtribe on the proposed dam in Tomiangan, Dupag, Tabuk City,” the tribes added.

The oppositors said that the NCIP only invited to its consultations those who would not be directly affected by the project.

A new opposition group known as the “No to Karayan Movement” had been kicked off to mount protests against the project.

The other projects in the NEDA pipeline include the P151-billion Philippine National Railways (PNR) Long-haul (Calamba-Bicol), the P150-billion Malolos-Clark Airport-Clark Green City Rail, the P134-billion PNR South Commuter Line (Tutuban-Los Baños), and the P35.3-billion Mindanao Railway Project-Tagum-Davao-Digos.

The others that are up for approval by the NEDA Board are the P15.35-billion Clark International Airport New Terminal Building Project, the P10.86-billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, and the P8.9-billion Cavite Industrial Area Flood Management Project. – Rappler.com

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