By Zaldy Comanda
Pinukpuk, Kalinga – The Chico River Pump Irrigation Project of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and China CAMC Engineering Company, Ltd. broke ground in Barangay Pinococ on Friday.
Over 4,300 families in two provinces covering Region 2 and the Cordillera will benefit from the irrigation project.
Expected to be completed in three years, the P4,372,897,254 project will generate 8,700 permanent jobs when it becomes operational in June 2021.
During the construction proper stage, which will start next month, 14,784 jobs will be created.
Hired workers will work on the construction of the pump house, the 1.9-kilometers diversion main canal tunnel, 4.4 kilometers diversion main canal, 33.5-kilometers main canal, 100.4 kilometers lateral canals, drainage and irrigation and drainage structures and facilities, 8 kilometers access road to the pump site, 84 kilometers service road and the project management office.
There will also be jobs for the installation of six electric motor-driven pumps, 30 kilometers transmission line and the sub-station.
The roads and irrigation canals will originate from this town stretching all the way to the municipalities of Tuao and Piat in the province of Cagayan.
The project site covers 20 barangays – 2 in Pinukpuk, Kalinga; 18 in Tuao and Piat, Cagayan that will benefit around 4,350 families in the two provinces, and two regions.
Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China Jin Yuan, in a message during the groundbreaking rites, said the project is the best gift in time for the 49th anniversary of Philippine-Chinese friendship.
He said that from the time the contract was signed between the contractor and the NIA in March, it only took a month for the finalization of the project which was witnessed by no less than President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jin Ping in China in April 10, 2018 during the BOAC forum.
The Chinese embassy representative assured that they will make sure the project encounters no further delays.
The project was conceptualized before 2010 prior to the conduct of a feasibility study and other procedural requirements.
It was only in September, 2016 when it was able to get the nod of the NEDA Investment Coordination Committee.
In June, 2017, the NEDA board approved the projects and the change in financing from local financing to official development assistance (ODA).
In the last visit of President Duterte to China in April, China Exim Bank approved the soft loan.
NIA Administrator Ricardo Visaya said this marks the sailing of the first of the many flagship projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program to be implemented by NIA.
The President saw the need for the project, setting aside politics, supporting a major project which had been stalled for over 10 years and pursuing the goals of the administration to give the farmers a better life.
He said that there are also many projects whch have been stalled for so long like the Balog Balog irrigation project that was not funded for 35 years, another project in Iloilo which was set aside for 12 years and the Halog dam, Ilocos Norte irrigation project-scheduled to be started next year under the China Eximbank fund.
“Makita po ninyo na lahat ng hindi nagawa ng past administartions, this administration is very determined to carry out.”
“Please extend to President Duterte our thankfulness because he did not see politics in the picture. He only got 2,000 votes in Cagayan because the people here did not know him, yet, he gave this project. He allowed it to be funded,” said Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba
Kalinga Governor JocelBaac, meantime, asked the NIA leadership to add another 2,000 hectares of land in Kalinga to be irrigated by the project being the host province and main water source.
“Definitely our people will be asking why only 1,170 hectares is considered by the NIA in its project plans.”
He also asked NIA to help maintain the watersheds in Kalinga to ensure a continued supply.