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Gatchalian to NCIP: Balance IP rights with nat’l development needs

BANGUI, ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – Giant turbines of the first wind farm in South East Asia dominate the coastline of this small town in northern Philippines as seen in this 18 April 2014 file photo. However, development of other local energy projects are impeded by red tape and indecisiveness prompting Senate Committee on Energy chair Senator Win Gatchalian to legislate measures that will mandate government agencies to restructure their permitting processes. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian is pushing the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to cut its lengthy permitting system and address persistent complaints of unreasonable delays in the issuance of permits for power generation projects which are vital to fostering sustainable economic development felt by all Filipinos.

In line with this, Gatchalian asked NCIP chairperson Atty. Leonor Oralde-Quintayo to submit a flowchart of its procedure in the issuance of a Certificate of No Overlap (CNO) and a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), and suggestions on how to shorten the process.

“We need to streamline the process because red tape is killing our country. We need your cooperation here because your office is one of the biggest bottlenecks in sustainable development,” Gatchalian said during the Senate Committee on Finance hearing on the proposed 2018 budget of the NCIP.

He acknowledged the difficulty of obtaining the consent of indigenous peoples groups throughout the country due to limited funding and personnel, but he stressed that the NCIP has to do basic internal housekeeping and improve its workflow.

“We want to help you, we don’t want to isolate the NCIP. We want to balance the rights of indigenous peoples and the development of all. Sabay-sabay tayo sa pag-asenso,” the senator added.

Gatchalian has sponsored on the Senate floor the proposed Energy Virtual One Stop Shop of 2017 (Senate Bill No. 1439, known for short as the EVOSS Act), which seeks to restructure the permitting process for new energy generation developers, including cutting short the NCIP timeframe of 2 to 4 years to process and release the CNO and the FPIC.

Quintayo told senators during the budget hearing that the FPIC takes years to be issued because the NCIP has limited manpower and resources to fast-track public consultations with the country’s 14 to 17 million indigenous peoples belonging to 110 ethno-linguistic groups, who are mainly concentrated in Northern Luzon (Cordillera Administrative Region) and Mindanao (61%), with some groups in the Visayas area.

But Gatchalian noted that the NCIP has a total of 1,588 approved plantilla positions, of which 1,359 are filled, 229 are unfilled, and 52 job order contracts, as indicated in the breakdown of its proposed budget.

“You can expedite the whole process of permitting because you have more than enough people to do the community consultations. There is no excuse for the prolonged permitting procedure,” Gatchalian said, adding: “Help us defend your budget (in plenary). Give us your commitment that you will no longer be the cause of delay in our nation’s sustainable development.”