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Kaliwa Dam project: A boon or bane?

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Kaliwa River in Tanay , Rizal | Photo credit: MWSS

QUEZON PROVINCE, Philippines – The Sierra Madre is the longest continuous mountain range in the country running from the provinces of Cagayan to the north and Quezon to the south.

Areas of General Nakar in Infanta, Quezon and Mt. Daraitan in Rizal are among the well-known sections with the highest peaks of the mountain range.

It is where the largest protected area in the country — the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park— lies.

At its foot and coasts reside some of the remotest communities that can only be accessed by plane or boat, and in some occasions, long-hours of walking and horseback riding.

Residents living at the foot of the mountains are mostly from the Agta and Dumagat tribes.

Locals consider the mountains their sacred sanctuary that’s why they oppose the impending construction of an infrastructure which they believe would destroy their homes and their lives – the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project.

They argue that the dam would pose risks of landslides and flooding to their communities.

Agta-Dumagat tribal group protesting the Kaliwa Dam project

“Iyon pong lupa namin makakasama sa lulubog. Paano naman po kami? Doon kami nabubuhay, (There could be a deluge that might inundate our lands. How about us? That is where we live.)” lamented Eduardo dela Cruz, a Dumagat.

“Itong aming daan, kapag iyan po ay naabot noong sinasabing level ng dam, lulubog iyan. Papaano naman kami? Kung hindi kami magbangka, (This roadway here will be flooded if the dam overflows. What will happen to us? We will be forced to use boats,)” argued a General Nakar resident, Boy Jano.

Marcelino Tena, the chief of the Agta-Dumagat tribal group, lamented that the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has not presented a clear plan on the entire process of the dam’s construction.

“Binabraso na kami ng MWSS para sa pagtayo ng dam. Ang gusto nila i-construction agad ang dam na hindi pa namin alam kung ano yung kanilang proyektong dam, (The MWSS is pressing the dam’s construction on us. They want to begin the construction right away without us knowing the entire plan of the project,)” Tena explained.

If the Kaliwa Dam project pushes through, around 424 families will be affected in the Quezon part of the mountains.

On the other side of the mountains, the Dumagat-Remontado tribe of Barangay Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal also fear that the project would cause the Tinipak river to overflow and inundate their entire village.

Barangay Daraitan is only a few kilometers away from the main area of the Kaliwa Dam project.

The MWSS only needs to secure a few documents and permits to kick start the construction of the dam project, including a clearance from the native Dumagats and Agta because the project directly hits their ancestral domain.

Other options please?

Amid the water crisis, a cheaper option for a dam alternative surfaced, which puts the China-funded deal in question.

A Japanese company Global Utility Development Corporation (GUDC) is said to have been offering a much lower and environment-friendly alternative for the Kaliwa Dam project.

They say that for a decade now, the Japanese government has been offering
to build the Philippine government a 7-meter-high Kaliwa Intake Weir project which can supply 550 million liters per day (MLD) of water.

The China-funded Kaliwa dam project is 62 meters high and can yield up to 600 MLD of water.

The GUDC said their proposal is much feasible and cost-efficient as it would only worth US$410 million as compared to the MWSS-China contract of US$800 million.

The Philippine government will not shell an amount in the Japanese deal under the 25-year build-operate-transfer scheme whereas the China-funded project is a loan program with 2 per cent interest rate.

The Japanese weir project is proposed to be completed within 36 months and will be finished in June 2022, before the end of President Duterte’s term.

Meanwhile, the MWSS-China Kaliwa Dam project will take up to 54 months and will end in 2024, far beyond the President’s term.

Then why the China-funded Kaliwa Dam contract?

The MWSS explained why it preferred the Chinese proposal than that of the Japanese deal.

“Hindi sustainable. Kapag tagtuyot baka wala siyang tubig. Sayang lang. Bakit ka maglalagay ng dam kung walang tubig? (It’s not sustainable. It might not have water during dry season so it would be a waste [of money]. Why would you construct a dam without water?)” argued MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco.

The Department of Finance (DOF) also noted that as early as 2013, the government has already decided to provide solution to the water shortage by constructing a dam, not a weir.

The MWSS also counter GUDC’s claim that their proposal is cheaper that the Chinese’.

The MWSS argued that the Kaliwa Dam project is cheaper by US$248 million or about P12.2 billion pesos.

It was in May 29, 2014 when the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III through the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) approved the construction of the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project.

But it was only when a loan agreement was signed between President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2018 that the project was decided to push through.

This is also among the main reasons why MWSS could no longer accept another proposal for the project.

“Oo. Pirmado na iyan. Matagal na noong dumating si President ng China, (Yes. It has been signed already, way back when the Chinese President visited the country,” Velasco confirmed.

Because of the mounting calls for transparency about the project, the DOF released a copy of the deal on its website which explains the conditions of the loan program between the Philippines and China in the construction of the Kaliwa Dam Project.

The Kaliwa Dam project is considered a “done deal”.

The MWSS, however, is still awaiting the engineering design of the proposed dam before it begins the first phase of the construction with the assurance that it will secure the relocation of the affected families first before the construction of the dam begins. – Marje Pelayo (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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Lawmakers want quality check on China-funded Kaliwa Dam project

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2019

Kaliwa River

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Infrastructure projects under the Philippine-China agreement are now under scrutiny by lawmakers including the controversial Kaliwa Dam and the Chico River Pump Irrigation Projects.

One of the issues that the lawmakers raised for review is the structures’ resiliency or strength.

The Ibon Foundation said such aspect of the infrastructure must be prioritized.

“May mahabang record actually ng problema sa mga Chinese loans. May problema doon sa quality ng construction. May problema doon sa terms ng kasunduan, (China-funded projects have a long-standing record of problems in the quality of construction, in the terms of the agreement,)” said Ibon’s Executive Director Sonny Africa.

One example of a China-funded project was a dam in Ecuador which already showed cracks, only two years after opening.

Likewise, Ecuador is said to have fallen into China’s ‘debt trap’ because of the dam’s price tag of US$1.7 billion dollars.

Senate Committee Chair on Energy and Economic Affairs Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said such a review of contracts is possible while he is confident that the Philippines will never experience Ecuador’s dilemma because the country has a very strict building code.

“We certainly can. The Philippines has a very comprehensive and strict building code. That will not likely happen in the Philippines,” he said in a statement.

In last week’s Senate inquiry, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) explained that all projects, specifically those loaned from China, were thoroughly studied and approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board.

“From the recommendation of the technical working group as this was studied, their recommendations are still the Kaliwa Dam,” said MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco.

As of this writing, the MWSS is still awaiting the engineering design of the MWSS-China Kaliwa Dam project before it kicks start the construction. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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MWSS assures no repeat of metro-wide water interruption

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte admonished the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, and water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad upon meeting with them on Tuesday night (March 19).

The President reportedly didn’t even bother to hear any of their defense on the water shortage.

In a statement, Malacañang said the Chief Executive issued a stern warning of removing MWSS from their posts and terminating the contracts of the two water concessionaires if their services will not improve.

“The Chief Executive bluntly told them to ‘shape up or ship out’!” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco assured they have already laid out plans to prevent having a repeat of the water interruption in Metro Manila.

“If I cannot do it, I will resign immediately,” Velasco added.

Velasco also admitted that the Chief Executive’s directive issued last week had been a big help for them to immediately resolve the water outage in the east zone of Metro Manila.

The official, meanwhile, denied allegations that the water shortage is just artificial and made-up to justify the construction of the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project.

Velasco said, “Hindi sila pwedeng magmoro-moro sa amin. Pag moro-moro insult sa aming intelligence.We are on top of the situation. Di pwedeng mag-arte-arte yang mga water concessionaires (They cannot not play us for fools. It will be an insult to our intelligence. We are on top of the situation. These concessionaires should stop acting up).”

Meanwhile, the MWSS expects that the delivery of water supply will go back to normal in Metro Manila come April, except for some barangays in elevated areas.

Still, the MWSS assures these barangays of sufficient water supply.

“That’s not a problem because we have 150 fleets of water tanks,” Velasco added.

Meanwhile, Manila Water Spokesperson Jeric Sevilla said in a statement that they are “focused now on exerting all efforts to bring water service availability back to normal levels at the earliest possible time.” Maris Federez

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Gov’t mulls review of China-funded Kaliwa Dam project

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Kaliwa River in Tanay , Rizal | Photo credit: MWSS

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte government is contemplating a review of the loan agreement between the Philippines and China on the much-talked-about Kaliwa Dam project.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the administration might scrap the project if it proves that the agreement will be more ‘burdensome’ than beneficial to the government.

“If the advance is so clear, if it’s true that the Chinese proposal is onerous, I think we should look into it,” Panelo said.

“I think that should be thoroughly studied if the claim of the Japanese is true or not (because) we don’t know exactly,” he added.

The Kaliwa Dam project made headlines amid the metro-wide water shortage that started early this month.

It became controversial when reports surfaced that a Japanese firm offered a much cheaper deal for the dam’s construction than pursuing the agreement with China.

Panelo said he would discuss the matter with concerned government agencies specifically the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). – Marje Pelayo