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Kaliwa Dam project: A boon or bane?

by Marje Pelayo   |   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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MWSS: No need for emergency powers to solve water woes

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, June 24th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte in April this year castigated executives of the government’s water agency Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and its concessionaires for the widespread water crisis that affected residents in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Despite this, water problems have not been solved.

Instead, they have worsened as water service interruptions affect not only customers of Manila Water but even the clients of Maynilad as Angat Dam continues to dry up.

But according to MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco, there is no need for another meeting with the President to solve the current issue.

“Kahit anong gawin natin, kahit na saan tayo mag-meet, kahit saan, ang kritikal dito ay ang tubig, (Whatever we do, wherever we meet, what’s critical here is water),” noted PDDG. Reynaldo Velasco, the MWSS Administrator.

“(Madadagdagan) ba ang tubig sa Angat? Kahit na sinong superman dito kung hindi talaga uulan walang kakayanin iyan (Can we add water to Angat? Even superman cannot do it unless rains come pouring down),” he added.

The official noted that there is no need to grant the President emergency powers to resolve the problem though such authority can be used to expedite the construction of government projects such as water dams.

“Kung manghihingi tayo ng emergency power, saan tayo kukuha ng tubig? (If we ask for emergency power, where do we get water?) In case we need some emergency power, (it) is for the future, ” Velasco said.

Dams which are under construction include the Wawa Dam in Rodriguez, Rizal and Kaliwa Dam in Tanay.

The projects are now facing hurdles especially the bidding process.

The MWSS, meanwhile, appeals to the two water concessionaires to religiously implement the schedule of water service interruptions while it also asks consumers to conserve water and as much as possible store only the enough volume.

“Kasi kapag nag-ipon sila ng sobra doon baka naman maapektuhan ang reservoir ng ating mga concessionaire, (If you store more than enough water, it might affect the supply in concessionaires’ reservoirs,)” Velasco concluded. – with details from Rey Pelayo.

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Group urges Gov’t to limit water usage in pools, other businesses amid supply woes

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

Photo by Nelly Aran from Pexels

MANILA, Philippines – A labor group on Saturday (June 22) called on the national government to intervene in the worsening water supply issues in Metro Manila due to the rapidly dropping water level at Angat Dam.

The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) suggested for the government to limit the usage of water-intensive facilities, such as swimming pools and other businesses until the water at Angat dam stabilizes.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on Saturday reported that Angat Dam’s water level dropped to 159.78 meters.

“Because water is a basic requirement for the 13 million Metro Manila residents, it must be given priority over the profit margin of businesses,” the group said in a statement.

“To address the intermittent water supply required to households of Metro Manila, government must intercede to limit the water usage of water-intensive facilities and businesses such as golf courses, swimming pools and water fountains,” it added.

The group estimated there are about 15 golf courses in areas covered by both water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water, including publicly-owned Veterans and Camp Aguinaldo golf courses in Quezon City and the Army and Navy golf clubs in Fort Bonifacio.

There are also over 10,000 swimming pools all over the metropolis, including water parks, swimming resorts, club houses, indoor pools of condominiums and private pools in posh subdivisions.

“Why should the people stand in line for water rations on a daily basis when the elite consume so much water for their luxuries? Why are the poor again the first to sacrifice during a water crisis when they did not benefit when both Maynilad and Manila Water were brimming with profit,” said BMP leader Leody De Guzman in a statement.

The BMP also called for the suspension of building permits for new businesses which require huge amounts of water until Angat dam water level stabilizes.

The group also called on the government, particularly the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to study the deployment of more radical contingency measures to address the worsening water supply in Metro Manila as its public appeal for water conservation is not enough.

The BMP is also pushing for the reversal of the policy of water privatization that resulted into the concession of the operations of the Metropolitan Wateworks and Sewerage Systems (MWSS).

The group claims the privatization of Metro Manila’s water supply did not improve services and sustain the needs of Metro Manila residents.

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MWSS asks Manila Water, Maynilad to explain unannounced service disruptions

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has formally asked concessionaires, Manila Water and Maynilad to explain the recent unannounced water service disruptions reported by affected residents in Metro Manila.

MWSS chief regulator Atty. Patrick Ty said a notice to explain has been sent to the water companies, warning them as well for not following the schedule for water service interruptions.

Early this week, water consumers of Manila Water and Maynilad complained about the late posting of water interruption schedules.

READ: Customers irked over late water interruption advisory from Manila Water, Maynilad

Ty added the MWSS Regulatory Office is now studying possible penalties that could be imposed on the concessionaires over unannounced water service interruptions.

The official said that at present, a concessionaire may only be sanctioned if the surprise water disruption occurred for 30 days.

Water concessionaires earlier urged for public understanding as they are still working on fixing the service disruption schedule amid limited water allocation.

The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) earlier said the water allocation for MWSS will be further reduced starting Saturday (June 22) when the water elevation at Angat Dam is expected to hit the critical level of 160 meters.

READ: NWRB: Angat dam to hit critical level on Saturday

The NWRB said at least 36 cms will be allocated for the MWSS should Angat dam water level drops below 160 meters.

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