Anti-dam group asks court to stop construction of Kaliwa Dam access road

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Anti-dam group asks court to stop construction of Kaliwa Dam access road
The Stop Kaliwa Dam Network, Dumagat leaders and Infanta local leaders pose for a photo on March 11, 2021. They filed a petition for environmental protection order and writ of continuing mandamus.
Save Kaliwa Dam Network

MANILA, Philippines — Groups opposing the Kaliwa Dam project asked a court in Quezon province to compel the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and other government agencies to stop the construction of an access road leading to the dam site.

The Stop Kaliwa Dam Network (SKDN), Dumagat leaders and local leaders filed a petition for environmental protection order and writ of continuing mandamus Thursday before the Infanta Regional Trial Court, saying the access road violated several processes and decrees protecting and preserving the culture, ecology and biodiversity in the area where it is being built.

The petitioners asked the court to immediately issue a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) directing the regional office of the DPWH to discontinue the construction of the access road and MWSS to stop its operation. Work on the access road was believed to have started before 2018.

The petition for TEPO also sought to order Infanta Mayor Filipina Grace America and General Nakar Mayor Eliseo Ruzol Sr. "to cease and desist from allowing, or abetting or aiding in any manner the construction of the Kaliwa Dam access road in their respective jurisdictions and from processing and/or issuing permits and clearances pertaining to the road project."

A judge can issue a TEPO effective for only 72 hours if the matter is “of extreme urgency and the applicant will suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury,” according to the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases.

Within the period, the court where the case is assigned shall conduct a summary hearing to determine whether the TEPO may be extended until the termination of the case.

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Continuing mandamus

The petitioners asked the court to issue a writ of continuing mandamus ordering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau to revisit and review the Environmental Compliance Certificate application for the access road.

They also appealed to the court to order the respondents to remove the access road, and rehabilitate and restore the environment in the area affected by the project.

“Petitioners likewise pray for other applicable reliefs that relate to the right of the petitioners, their generation, and generations yet unborn, to a balanced and healthful ecology, and to the protection, preservation, rehabilitation, or restoration of the environment,” the petition read.

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Alleged violations inside a protected area

The access road sits on the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, a protected area. Projects within the National Integrated Protected Area System require clearance from the Protected Area Management Board.

“MWSS and DPWH IV-A did not secure a clearance from the Protected Area Management Board before the road construction,” said Conrad Vargas, executive director of the Prelature of Infanta Community Organization of the Philippines, Inc. and who is one of the petitioners.

He added the MWSS and DPWH Calabarzon did not comply with the stoppage order issued by the province’s environment and natural resources officer in 2018.

Conchita Calzado, a leader from General Nakar, said the access road project has no Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of the indigenous peoples’ communities in the area.

“The access road project has no FPIC even though it is included in our Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title. We’re surprised that the road is being constructed without any consultations,” Calzado said in Filipino.

The China-backed Kaliwa Dam is expected to add 600 million liters per day to the water supply of Metro Manila, which is dependent on Angat Dam in Bulacan.

Thousands of households in Rizal and Quezon, including IP communities, will be at risk of flooding and other effects of possible dam failure or dam break once the project is completed. The area where the dam will be built is also home to threatened flora and fauna.

“This P400-million worth project has already destroyed large portions of our mountains and forests in Quezon and disrupted the lives and culture of Dumagats,” Fr. Pete Montallana, co-convenor of SKDN, said.

“We remain confounded by how our government can confidently say that Kaliwa Dam and its annexed projects are for the common good; therefore, they will do everything to fast-track the project,” he said.




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