QUEZON CITY – In a show of solidarity and support for the indigenous people and local farmers in Bulacan, the Metropolitan Waterwork and Sewerage System along with its two concessionaires, Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Corporation, have released close to P37-million development fund for IPs and local farmers involving two major MWSS projects namely the Angat Water Transmission Improvement Project or Tunnel 4, the Angat-Maasim River Irrigation System (AMRIS) and Bustos Dam.
MWSS Chairman and Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said the AWTIP is a classic example on the importance of commitment, collaboration, partnership and respect in securing the approval of the indigenous peoples (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. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) classified the project as non-extractive, non-intrusive and small-scale.
The Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (IPs/ICCs), specifically the Dumagat Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples of Kabayunan Ancestral Domain in Dona Remedios Trinidad and Norzagaray, Bulacan, expressed their support to the project after the required 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 adding that “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 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on 17 December 2019.” The MOA includes the indigenous defined FPIC processes, self-determined development plans, and a P20 million Community Development Fund.
The long-awaited CP, a certificate issued by the NCIP attesting to the grant of FPIC by the Dumagat Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples of Kabayunan Ancestral Domain was signed on 25 September 2020. Soon after, the MWSS Concessionaires, Manila Water Company and Maynilad Services, Inc. funded the check for P20.0 million promised to the community. For transparency, a ceremonial turnover and acceptance of the P20.0 million community development assistance was held recently.
Mr. Rodolfo Aquino, president of the Indigenous Bulos-Kabol-Lowen Association of Bulacan, accepted the check (IBKCAB). In his message, Tribal Governor Rolando M. Rivera stated that the fund will improve the community’s quality of life and will be used to promote the IP’s interests, beliefs, and customs.
In a related development, MWSS Chairman and Administrator Velasco reported the release of P16.25 million worth of financial support to the 6,500 farmers of Angat-Maasim River Irrigation System (AMRIS) Federation of Irrigators Association, Inc. represented by IA President Guillermo N. Mangaluz recently.
The financial assistance came about in the aftermath of the drought and COVID 19 pandemic in 2020 with water allocation for Metro Manila consumers from Angat was reduced as the ideal 212-meter elevation for the dam to recover and replenish was not reached.
Due to the drought and repair of the Bustos Dam in May 2020, MWSS requested NWRB to increase allocation for Metro Manila’s domestic use to sustain the high water demand due to COVID-19. NIA’s concurrence and NWRB’s approval of additional release to MWSS ensured continuous water availability in the service area.
In the spirit of Bayanihan, MWSS tapped it’s two concessionaires – Maynilad Water Services (MWSI) and Manila Water Company (MWC) – to underwrite and equally fund the financial assistance to the farmers.
“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.
Joining Velasco in the turnover of the financial support were National Irrigation Administrator Ricardo R. Visaya, Maynilad President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ramoncito S. Fernandez, Manila Water Chief Operations Officer (COO) Abelardo P. Basilio, Bulacan Provincial Governor Daniel R. Fernando, Bulacan Provincial Agriculturist Ma. Gloria SF. Carillo, NIA Regional Manager Josephine Salazar, and other officials from NIA Central Office, Regional Office, and Bulacan AMRIS Federation of IA attended the event.
It will be recalled that National Water Resources Board Executive Director Sevillo D. David, Jr., proposed to MWSS an equitable cash compensation plan for Bulacan farmers who were affected by the reduced water allocation for irrigation for the dry season in 2019.
AMRIS IA Federation President Mangaluz expressed his gratitude to all agencies who made the financial support possible.
“Labis po kaming nagpapasalamat sa tulong at financial support na ipinagkaloob ninyo sa aming mga magsasaka. Malaking bagay po ito para sa pamilya ng mga magsasakang Bulakenyo,” he said.