Progress and Preservation: A Balancing Act. Progress is essential. Preservation, too, is essential – but, ultimately, it is a balancing act. Such was the case between the indigenous people (IP) of Calinog and the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project and its construction partner Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd.
Background: The Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project was first implemented by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in the 1960s after the Fourth Congress of the Philippines passed Republic Act 2651 in June 1960. The law provides for the construction of the Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project in the Province of Iloilo. The first phase was completed in the 1980s, and the second started in 2012 after the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board approved its second phase. NIA is a government-owned and controlled corporation primarily responsible for irrigation development and management in the country.
The JRMP II is the first large-scale water reservoir and NIA’s flagship project in Western Visayas. The project aspires to usher in inclusive development while minimizing its impact to the environment and project-covered communities. It also aims to provide the following benefits: year-round irrigation, bulk water supply, hydroelectric power, and eco-tourism. (Source: http://jrmp.nia.gov.ph/)
Indigenous People Plead: Stop Illegal Quarrying
According to IP representatives, around 400k cubic meters of sand and gravel were ‘illegally’ extracted in Calinog by Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd. According to them, it is a violation of the tripartite agreement between the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the Panay Bukidnon-Halawodnon Indigenous Cultural Community of Calinog (IP), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd. is a construction company and the winning bidder during the International Competitive Bidding (ICB) of the said NIA project. It is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea,
Moreover, last October 2020, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of Iloilo City submitted a report to PENRO OIC Atty. Arturo Cangreo, titled “Assessment of Stockpiled Materials of Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd.” The report revealed that Daewoo has stockpiled twelve (12) mounds of materials in Barangay Agcala and Barangay Alibunan in Calinog. The total assessed volume of stockpiled sand and gravel measured about 381,158.22 cubic meters. The quarry materials, composed of rock, sand, and aggregates were said to be illegally extracted from ancestral domains of indigenouse people.
According to them, the act is a breach of the agreement. With NIA and the contractor being obliged to “refrain from using in the construction of dams and other appurtenant structures of JRMP II sand and gravel/quarry materials from areas within the ancestral domain of the affected IPs, and that a corresponding amount shall be collected as penalty in case this clause is violated.”
As a result of the PENRO report, the Office of the Canlandog Indigenous People’s Organization conducted a meeting of the Council of Elders in January 2021, resulting in a resolution seeking the assistance of the PENRO and the MENRO regarding the violations committed by Daewoo Engineering and Construction. The resolution sought proper compensation for the IP or payment of royalty for the extraction.
Calinog Vice Mayor Renato Casinao, together with a representative from the Indigenous People (IP) of Calinog, held a press conference to express their sentiments regarding the illegal extraction and damage to the indigenous ancestral domain by Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd. Casinao said that Daewoo has not responded to them yet and calls for appropriate agencies/authorities to aid them in their grievances.
Update as of September 28: Former Senator Franklin Drilon released a statement on the issue regarding the Indigenous People (IP) of Calinog: “I will request Engineer Jonel Borres, the NIA Region 6 supervising the constructions of Jalaur Dam, to check on this, and if true, help the IPs (tumandok) get what is due them. No longer being in government, this is the best I can do for the tumandoks.”
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Responds
Update as of September 29: The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II, in a social media post, provided a response to the allegations by the Indigenous People (IP) of Calinog. NIA Regional Information Officer, Steve Cordero, explained the agency’s side of the story.
“According to Cordero, NIA, through the Project Management Office (PMO) of JRMP II, has worked tirelessly to ensure that the development needs of the IP community are addressed. He stressed that the PMO is always open for any concerns related to project implementation, thus encouraging stakeholders to avail themselves of the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) for the office to immediately respond and address any issues and concerns related to JRMP II,” begins the social media post.
“As to the alleged illegal extraction of aggregates, Cordero said NIA has already shed light on this issue several times before the Council of Elders, NCIP and Calinog LGU in several venues, the last of which was on July 11, 2022, hosted by the Calinog LGU,” it adds.
The post also included statements from Cordero.
“The PMO has made it clear that the extractions made by Daewoo E&C is part and parcel of the project implementation and primarily are confined within the project site, thus, these extractions were not illegally made by our contractor,” Cordero said.
The post continued to explain that Daewoo needs to excavate these areas to guarantee the safety of the ongoing construction of the dams and facilities, as well as to ensure the unobstructed flow of the river. The extracted raw materials, having been found to be of good quality, were processed by Daewoo and reused in the ongoing construction of the project.
Cordero added that as early as 2019, consultations with the IP elders were conducted by NIA in relation to the intention of the contractor to reuse the extracted materials from the project site for project implementation. Apart from these consultations with the IP elders, meetings with and technical opinions from other agencies, including but not limited to PENRO-LGU Iloilo and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), were sought by the office.
He also noted that these dialogues resulted in the proposal of NIA for royalty fee, which was submitted to the office of the NCIP and the JMT which was created to monitor MOA compliance of NIA, as early as Sept. 18, 2021. Citing one of the several meetings attended by IP elders, NIA, Daewoo, and NCIP wherein the proposal of NIA was tackled, He stressed that the IP elders and NCIP committed to finalizing their counteroffer to the proposed royalty fee of NIA.
“Another meeting was held on Aug .1, 2022, where the NCIP and JMT reported that they have not yet finalized their counter-offer and that another meeting with the IP elders will be held on Aug. 21, 2022, to finalize the same. To this day, the PMO is still waiting for the counteroffer to our proposed royalty fee, thus, payment of royalty to the IP community cannot proceed by reason thereof,” said Cordero.
He stated that the PMO is adamant that it has fulfilled its obligations to the IP community in this matter.
He added that payment of royalty is no longer an issue as long as all concerned parties agree during the negotiation process.
Progress Versus Preservation: Resolution
Update as of October 11: NIA release another statement confirming that the IP issue on royalty fee has finally been resolved. It was discussed during a dialogue attended by Engineer Jonel Bores, JRMP II Project Manager; Attorney Michael Margarico, JRMP II Legal Counsel; Attorney Cesar Emmanuele Buyco, PENRO-LGU Iloilo and Multi-Partite Monitoring Team (MMT) Chairman; Ana Burgos, NCIP Regional Director; Engineer Jose Roberto Papa, Jr of KRC JV, and Joint Monitoring Team: Engineers Edgardo Labordo and Jouie Calcena of NCIP; Jimmy Lastrilla of the IP Community, and Steve Cordero of NIA.