Plug leaks and restore watersheds instead, groups against Kaliwa Dam urge government
People who have lived beside the river for generations use fishing rods to catch fish to eat. Christopher Toledo
Plug leaks and restore watersheds instead, groups against Kaliwa Dam urge government
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - November 14, 2019 - 6:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — The government should explore all viable solutions to ensure water security in Metro Manila instead of building the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project, which puts indigenous peoples' communities and the Sierra Madre ecosystem at risk.

Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance Inc. and Haribon Foundation—both part of the broad STOP Kaliwa Dam Network—stressed this in separate statements Thursday.

Fr. Pete Montallana, president of Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, said there are alternative water solutions available which are "less costly and much less damaging to the environment."

“Maynilad says that it can reduce the 30% non-revenue water to 20%. That means from its allotted 2,400 MLD (million liters per day), we can have 240 MLD. Cardona [Water Treatment Plant] of Manila Water has 100 MLD from Laguna Lake and Putatan [Water Treatment Plant] has 150 MLD. National Irrigation Administration [facilities] has 40 MLD. Wawa Dam has 1,000 MLD,” Montallana said in a text message to

Non-revenue water refers to water lost to leaks or theft.

"These options are just as viable and will not entail the same negative impacts as the Chinese-funded Kaliwa Dam project that will cost at least P12.2 billion and is anticipated to cause massive damage to Sierra Madre’s biodiversity, as well as displace thousands of indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains," Montallana said.

Haribon meanwhile said the government should undertake "cost-effective, sustainable and nature-based solutions" such as restoring forests in Angat, La Mesa and existing watersheds.

“Water comes from forests not from dams. Forests absorb water through their roots, releases it together from their lives through transpiration, then turns into rainwater together with water evaporated from oceans and other water bodies,” Haribon said.

It added: “Forests have an indispensable biodiversity value—not only does it supply goods for trade and subsistence, it also contributes to water cycle and groundwater withdrawal.”

Citing estimates of experts, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said there are at least 8,255 MLD worth of safer, alternative water sources. Kaliwa Dam is expected to add 600 million liters per day to the capital’s water supply.

SPECIAL REPORTIn the abundance of water: A dam project may wash away generations-old Dumagat villages

Threatened communities, species

Last month, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System obtained an Environmental Compliance Certificate from the Environment department’s Environmental Management Bureau for the dam project despite opposition from environmental groups, indigenous peoples communities and local governments.

Obtaining ECC allows a project to proceed to the next stage of planning, which includes securing approvals from other government agencies.

According to an EMB executive summary on the project, 1,465 households in three villages in Rizal and Quezon will be affected by the project. Of those, 1,041 “will be at risk of flooding and other effects of possible dam failure or dam break.”

It also said 424 households in Brgy. Magsaysay in Infanta and Pagsangahan in General Nakar will be directly affected by the project.

The dam project “will also indirectly impact 56 indigenous people households and will place around 284 IP households at risk of flooding and other effects of possible dam failure or dam break.”

According to the project’s Environmental Impact Statement, there are 67 species found in the watershed area and along the tunnel alignment that are listed under International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Endangered Species.

These include the critically-endangered native tree species such as Yakal Saplungan, Bagtikan, White Lauan and Tanguile.

There are 69 species of bird, 13 mammals, nine reptiles and six amphibians in the watersheds of Sierra Madre.

“Their presence in the watersheds of Sierra Madre is a good indicator of balance in the ecology, food chain cycle, and natural environmental process that humans benefit from daily,” Haribon said.

Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte said he is mulling the use of police powers to start the construction of the controversial dam project.

“My concern is the welfare—the greatest good for the greatest number. That is democracy,” the chief executive said.

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