Coalition rejects China-funded Kaliwa Dam project

Coalition rejects China-funded Kaliwa Dam project
The Kaliwa Dam project, a $211.21-million loan from China, has been seen as solution to Metro Manila’s water requirements.

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of environmental and rights groups has expressed its strong opposition to the proposed construction of Kaliwa Dam, saying the China-funded project would put people’s lives at risk, destroy the biodiversity in the area and tie the country to an ‘onerous’ loan.

The Kaliwa Dam project, a $211.21-million loan from China, is being touted as a solution to Metro Manila’s water requirements. But for Sectors Opposed to the Kaliwa Dam (STOP Kaliwa Dam), the government is just using the shortage in water supply to “aggressively promote” the controversial project.

STOP Kaliwa Dam said there are “more than enough (reasons) to call into serious question the wisdom of pushing through with the construction of the Kaliwa Dam.”

Violation of legal processes

STOP Kaliwa Dam stressed that the project failed to secure consent from the Dumagats and Remontados who own the land as required by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

“In fact, the IP leaders in the area have questioned the Free, Prior and Informed Consent process currently being undertaken by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples because they were not provided with copies of relevant documents from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System as project proponent which are essential for evaluating and making informed decisions,” the groups said.

They also said that the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has not yet issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate, which is needed for any project that poses a potential risk to the environment.

The groups, moreover, said that the construction of the access road to the dam site violates the law since it has no permit from the Protected Area Management Board and the local government unit of Infanta, Quezon.

Destruction of biodiversity, contribution to climate change

STOP Kaliwa Dam pointed out that “building a mega dam in the area will cause irreparable damage to the surrounding ecosystem and endanger [and] devastate animal and plant life.

Proclamation 573 declared the Kaliwa Watershed a forest reserve and Proclamation 1636 declared a portion of the area a National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Citing information from the Haribon Foundation, the groups said the Kaliwa Watershed is home to the endangered Northern Philippine Hawk-eagle, Philippine Brown Deer, Philippine Warty Pig, vulnerable Northern Rufous Hornbill, critically-endangered Philippine Eagle and restricted-range birds of the Luzon Endemic Bird Area.

The groups also said that dam reservoirs are “significant” source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“As one of the countries suffering the brunt of climate change impacts, from devastating typhoons to prolonged dry spells, it would be irresponsible and irrational to fund a project that will exacerbate climate change,” they said.

Social cost

The groups noted that the ancestral domains of the Dumagat and Remontados as well as sacred sites and burial grounds will be submerged by the dam.

“Construction of the dam will inundate the Barangay Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal with a population of 1,000 households and 500 households from Pagsangahan, General Nakar, Quezon. This will mean the loss of significant income for the area due to the loss of eco-tourism which has seen a boom in recent years,” they said.

The town of Infanta will lose the benefit of sediment-carrying river flows, which will then affect irrigation to rice paddies, they added.

STOP Kaliwa Dam also said that the project will endanger the lives of people as the mega dam will be constructed within the zone of two active tectonics—the Philippine Fault Zone and the Valley Fault System.

‘Onerous’ loan

The organizations, moreover, stressed that the project “will add to the country’s ballooning debt.

The $211.21-million loan from China carries an interest rate of two percent per annum, payable in 20 years, including a grace period of seven years. It covers 85 percent of the project’s contact amount and carries a management fee of 0.3 percent as well as a commitment of 0.3 percent per annum.

STOP Kaliwa Dam added the project “binds the country to an onerous agreement that encroaches on our sovereignty and opens up assets and natural resources to potential seizure by China.”

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was quoted as saying that Kaliwa Dam project also offers patrimonial assets as collateral.

But Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the Philippine government does not need to surrender any of its assets to China in case the country fails to settle its obligations on infrastructure projects.

“In conformity with the constitution and laws of the Philippines, none of the pipeline projects allow for appropriation or takeover of domestic assets in the event of failure to pay which hollows out our sovereignty,” Dominguez said.

STOP Kaliwa Dam includes the following organizations:

  • Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance
  • Haribon Foundation
  • Freedom from Debt Coalition
  • Philippine Movement for Climate Justice
  • Alyansa Tigil Mina
  • Green Convergence
  • Greenresearch
  • Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights (LILAK) 
  • Sukatan – LN
  • Ateneo - Office for Social Concern and Involvement
  • Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development
  • Oriang
  • Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod
  • Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan
  • Kalamidad
  • Sanlakas
  • PUP Center for Envrionmental Studies
  • Prelature of Infanta Community Organization of the Philippines Inc.
  • Tribal Center for Development
  • Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta, Dumagat, Remontado na Binabaka at Pinagtatanggol ang Lupaing Ninuno (SAGIBIN-LN)
  • Tanggol Kalikasan
  • Bantay Kita
  • Green Thumb Coalition
  • 11.11.11
  • Citizens’ Environment Network.

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