Dumagat leader stresses opposition to Kaliwa Dam as work continues near site
A member of Dumagat community catches fish in Agos River.
Philstar.com/Efigenio Christopher Toledo IV
Dumagat leader stresses opposition to Kaliwa Dam as work continues near site
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - October 6, 2020 - 2:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — A Dumagat leader questioned Tuesday the government for allowing to push through the construction of the access road leading to the planned Kaliwa Dam to in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marcelino Tena, leader of the Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta, Dumagat at Remontado, said works continue in the access road construction site despite the implementation of strict quarantine measures.

"I was a little thankful when lockdown was enforced because I expected that there will be no construction work to be done for the access road and no Chinese will come during this period," Tena said in a video message played during a forum organized by the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and the Network Opposed to Kaliwa, Kanan, Laiban Dams.

"But I found out later from the leaders in Queborosa that the construction of the road is ongoing and Chinese workers are there as well," he added.

Queborosa is a settlement in Infanta, Quezon where Dumagats and Remontados live. The village will have to be relocated since their land will be inundated when the dam is built.

The Dumagat leader said that Chinese workers were preparing for drilling operations and already surveying the project site.

“If they are continuing construction work, they are clearly violating some laws and procedures. Does the government notice this or not? That’s a big question for us,” Tena said.

Government guidelines allow construction work subject to certain conditions, including that field offices, employees’ quarters, and other common areas should be regularly disinfected and that the number of people leaving the work site should be kept to a minimum.

READ: Task Force approves safety guidelines for construction work

Contractors should also provide in-house personnel adequate food, safe and potable drinking water, disinfectants and hand soap.

Last January, Tena disputed the statement of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, the proponent of the dam project, that the Dumagat communities had already given their approval for the undertaking to push through.

He accused the MWSS and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples of manipulating members of Dumagat community to move the construction of the China-funded dam forward.

Although construction of the dam will need the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the indigineous people's communities in the area, work on the access road has started even in 2019, when Philstar.com conducted interviews in the area.

Dumagat leaders familiar with the discussions on the project said they were told the road is not on ancestral land, so their consent is not required for it to be built.

NewsXIn the abundance of water

Opposition remains

“We, indigenous peoples, already decided that we are against the dam project. Whatever conditions they offer us, we will choose to protect the environment. Stop building the large dam. This is the real stand of Dumagat communities until the end,” Tena said

Kaliwa Dam is meant to be a medium-term water source for Metro Manila, complementing Angat Dam in Bulacan, the current main source. The dam project is expected to add 600 million liters per day to the capital region’s water supply.

In October last year, the MWSS obtained an environmental compliance certificate for the project despite opposition from environmental groups, indigenous peoples and local governments.

Securing an ECC allows an undertaking to proceed to the next level of planning, which includes securing approvals from other government agencies.

Thousands of households in Rizal and Quezon will be at risk of flooding and other effects of possible dam failure or dam break, according to an Environmental Management Bureau Executive Summary of the project.

There are also 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.

Leodema Doroteo, a member of a Dumagat community in Rizal, said they are not against development but stressed that the project must not affect their lives in exchange for quenching Metro Manila’s thirst.

“We can go up the mountains but we will adjust again. We will alter our way of life, we will start over again,” she said.

Photo essayAgos River: Where life flows for the Dumagat people

Ecologically sustainable alternatives

Angelo Joshua Luciano from Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) said there are water solutions available which are much less damaging to the environment.

He said the government can tap Sumag River in Quezon province, Wawa Dam in Rizal, Laguna Lake Water Treatment Plant and Cardona Water Treatment Plant as sources of additional water supply.

The government can also construct a desalination plant and employ rainwater harvesting technology as alternative source of water supply.

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