The Metropolitan Waterwork and Sewerage System and its two concessionaires, Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Company, Inc., have released a development fund for indigenous people (IPs) and local farmers in Bulacan.
The development fund, which is close to P37million, was meant for farmers and IPs either living within the area of construction of major MWSS projects, namely the Angat Water Transmission Improvement Project (AWTIP) or Tunnel 4, or the area where MWSS concessionaires were allowed to tap water, namely Angat-Maasim River Irrigation System (AMRIS).
MWSS Chairman and Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said the AWTIP is a classic example of the importance of commitment, collaboration, partnership, and respect in securing the approval of IPs in any developmental project within their ancestral domain.
The AWTIP or Tunnel 4 is within the 0.685 hectares ancestral domain of the IPs of Sitio Ipo, Bgy. San Mateo, Norzagaray Bulacan.
It involves the construction of a new tunnel in the Angat-Ipo-La Mesa water system, which currently provides the bulk of Metro Manila’s water needs.
MWSS said the AWTIP is a critical component of the MWSS’ water security program as it mitigates the risk of a partial or total disruption of the water supply for Metro Manila.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) classified the project as non-extractive, non-intrusive, and small-scale.
MWSS said the IPs and the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs), specifically the Dumagat ICC and IPs of Kabayunan Ancestral Domain in Dona Remedios Trinidad and Norzagaray, Bulacan, expressed their support to the project after the required Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) processes on consultation, community assemblies, consensus-building, and decision-making were completed by MWSS.
“Community participation is always critical in identifying local needs and the MWSS provided an appropriate response from the IPS,” said Velasco.
“Achieving unanimous agreement was not always easy but the strong relationship the MWSS has maintained with the IPs/ICCs paved the way for the signing of the MOA [Memorandum of Agreement],” he added.
The MOA includes the indigenous defined FPIC processes, self-determined development plans, and a P20-million Community Development Fund.
In a related development, Velasco also reported the release of P16.25 million worth of financial support to the 6,500 farmers of AMRIS Federation of Irrigators Association, Inc.
The financial assistance came about in the aftermath of the drought and COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Due to the drought and repair of the Bustos Dam in May 2020, MWSS requested National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to increase allocation for Metro Manila’s domestic use to sustain the high water demand due to COVID-19.
MWSS then tapped its two concessionaires to underwrite and equally fund the financial assistance to the farmers who will be affected by this move.
“With the assistance of NIA, we were able to select the qualified beneficiaries. With gratitude, I wish to thank Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Company, Inc., for making the necessary payment as compensation to the farmer-beneficiaries,” said Velasco.