Negros Occidental - Hilabangan River Irrigation Project of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) conducts 2nd General Assembly to the Indigenous Peoples for the issuance of a Certificate of Precondition (CP) in Brgy. Tan-awan last October 10, 2016.

“Kalinungan kag kaayuhan ang kinahanglan sang Tan-awan, nagapasalamat kami tungod ara na ang mga pagbag-o”, according to Elder Felomino Montercino. (Tan-awan is in need of peace and progress, the community is thankful for the upcoming improvement)

The project was originally proposed in the early 1950’s but it was shelved due opposition from different groups. It has finally resurfaced this year when National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) gave its go signal to undergo the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process for the construction of this Ogee Dam for Hilabangan Project.

Hilabangan River Irrigation Project is set to improve agricultural productivity and economic conditions within the area. Target service areas include portions of the Municipalities of Kabankalan, Cauayan, Ilog, and Himamaylan all in the Province of Negros Occidental.

The course of conduct for a Field Based Investigation (FBI) by NCIP revealed that 70% of the population were identified community of “Bukidnon” IPs residing within the project site specifically at Brgy. Tan-awan, Kabankalan City.

An FPIC has to be complied pursuant to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA Law). This is in observance to IPs right to self-determination and self-governance in decision making process over projects that concern their lives and resources.

The first assembly was conducted by the NCIP and “Bukidnon” IPs last September 28, 2016. After a consensus, the 2nd General Assembly was agreed to be undertaken by NIA as the project proponent held at the affected barangay.

During the assembly, the 3 meter high Ogee type dam approved plan and the proposed project were presented. The institutional development program framework with the estimated right of way affected areas were also discussed. The proponent incorporated the project’s perceived impacts and proposed mitigating measures to the IP community.

According to the officer-in-charge of Negros Occidental IMO, Engr. Lorena B. Sioco, “the implementing agency is validating the current status of the project, as much as possible NIA is doing its outmost efforts to help address the needs of the directly affected stakeholders”.

“With the convergence and support of various government agencies, the Hilabangan River Irrigation Inter-Agency Coordinating Council (HRIPIACC) will make a sustainable solution to the requests of our IP community”, as expressed by Atty. Michael Margarico, legal counsel of NIA R 6.

“Layo man kita mga IPs sa suba, wala ga upang sa progresso, ang NIA naga kinahanglan kooperasyon sa mga tawo sa bukid”, stressed by Fr. Ryan Gore. (We, the IPs might be far from the river banks, yet NIA needs our cooperation to achieve development)

A “Freedom Period” will be undertaken by the “Bukidnon” IPS to understand and discern the pros and cons of the project. The said period will commence not less than ten (10) days from the date of the 2nd General Assembly and to be completed at a reasonable time not more than two (2) months.

Hilabangan RIS dubbed as a “long awaited” irrigation development project to commence upon the issuance of the Resolution of Consent prepared, signed and released by the IP community.