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.
“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)
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has revoked the extension of the government’s water concession agreement with the Manila Water and Maynilad.
MWSS Deputy Administrator for Engineering, Leonor Cleofas confirmed that they revoked the board resolution extending the water concession agreement of Maynilad and Manila Water until 2037.
The MWSS said this was prompted by the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte due to the “onerous” provisions in the said water concession agreement.
“It was on the agenda that the board tackles the resolution on the approval of the extension of the concession agreement. That was brought about by the directive of the President tackled in the Cabinet meeting… they are now revoking the board resolution adopted in 2008,” Cleofas said.
Cleofas made the confirmation on Wednesday’s (Dec. 11) joint hearing of the House Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability and on Public Accounts.
With this move by the MWSS, the concession agreement with Maynilad and Manila Water to service Metro Manila and parts of Luzon will expire in 2022.—AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)
MANILA, Philippines – Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services will affect a rate hike in January 2020.
This is at the height of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s directive to review the contract between the government and the two water concessionaires.
Maynilad and Manila Water will implement around P3.00 per cubic meter price hike.
Add to this is the increase in the Foreign Currency Differential Adjustment (FCDA) and other foreign currencies that the two water concessionaires use in their loan payment.
In 2018, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has approved Maynilad and Manila Water’s rate increase petition.
For Maynilad, the approved rate hike is P5.73 which will be applied on a staggered basis for five years or until 2022.
Manila Water, on the other hand, had been allowed a rate increase of P6.22 to P6.50.
Meanwhile, with the expected rate hike, water service interruption will still be experienced by Maynilad and Manila Water consumers as the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) has yet to increase Metro Manila’s water allocation despite the rising water level in Angat Dam.
As of Friday morning, the water level in Angat Dam was at 195.03 meters.
This, however, is still far from the dam’s normal operating level of 210 to 212 meters.
Authorities advise the public to continue to conserve water to maintain sufficient water supply in Angat Dam until the next dry season. (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf
MANILA, Philippines – The government may opt to abort the Kaliwa Dam project if it leads to violation of public interest, according to Malacañang.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement on Monday (October 28) said the government is in the process of reviewing the project plan after it received several complaints regarding its implementation.
“If the findings show that it is indeed disadvantageous and against the interest of the people there, then it can be rescinded,” Panelo noted.
Nevertheless, the Palace is confident that China would understand should the Philippines decide not to continue the construction of Kaliwa Dam.
Environmental groups and local officials are opposing the Kaliwa Dam project in Tanay, Rizal citing environmental destruction and displacement of Indigenous Peoples group in the area. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)
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