Years after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued the Certificate of Pre-Condition (CP) for the construction of the AWTIP, the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) amongst the NCIP, MWSS and the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) represented by the Elders and Chieftains of Sitio Kabayunan, was finally perfected in a general assembly held at San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan.

The CP is an affirmation that the ICCs/IPs  gave their consent/acceptance for the MWSS to apply for the Free and Prior Informed Consent or FPIC for the AWTIP.   Although it took a long time and process for the signing of the MOA to materialize, mostly due to overlapping tenurial rights, the important thing is that IP leaders, members of the tribe, and members of the local community have clearly understood the temporary impacts of the project alongside with MWSS’ recognition and respect of their rights.

The FPIC is considered given upon the signing of the MOA containing the conditions/ requirements, benefits as well as penalties as basis for the consent.  However, the MOA signed in 17 December 2019 shall still be reviewed by NCIP Legal Affairs Office prior to the endorsement of the FPIC report to the Commission en banc.

For MWSS the FPIC does not only mean compliance with the regulatory requirements but more importantly it is a recognition that the IPs have an equal spot at the table from the very beginning, with input and decision-making authority.   Though it took a long time what matters most, isn’t the number of meetings or hours of conversation, but opportunities for sustained, serious, mutual listening and learning.  Indigenous people and communities deserve that.