Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By DJ Yap, Melvin Gascon and Mariejo S. Ramos @Team_inquirer

Critics of the controvers­ial Kaliwa dam proposal slammed the Department of Environmen­t and Natural Resources’ (DENR) issuance of an environmen­tal compliance certificat­e (ECC) to the P18.7-billion project, and vowed to block its constructi­on.

The ECC was issued despite stiff opposition from environmen­tal groups and indigenous communitie­s that cited the risks and irregulari­ties in the dam project in Quezon province, that was widely touted as the solution to the water shortage in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and other opposition lawmakers accused the Metropolit­an Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) of “apparent collusion” with its two bulk water suppliers, Maynilad and Manila Water, to force approval of the project to be funded by China.

Environmen­tal groups also accused officials and executives of the DENR, MWSS and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) of conspiring to push the project forward.

“We hope that the round of water interrupti­ons [announced recently] is not another ploy to push the start of the constructi­on of the dam, which is full of anomalies and is onerously pro-china,” Zarate said.

Zarate urged his colleagues to act on the Makabayan bloc’s proposed House Resolution No. 10 calling for an inquiry on the privatizat­ion of water utilities in the country.

Bayan Muna chair and former congressma­n Neri Colmenares also demanded a rebate of all previous rate hikes charged by Manila Water and Maynilad.

“The water concession­aires justified their increases because of the billions of pesos they will spend … [for] new sources of water supply,” he recalled.

“Now we are told they cannot give us enough water supply,” Colmenares said. “We demand a return of all those rate increases, and the opening of all their books.”

The Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, which has opposed the project from the outset, also blasted how it has become a “conspiracy” among former military officers.

Fr. Pete Montallana, the group’s head, charged that Environmen­t Secretary Roy Cimatu, MWSS administra­tor Emmanuel Salamat and NCIP Chair Allen Capuyan—all former military officials—were ordered to shepherd the project’s approval.

“With pressure from the President who is tied to China, that ECC will have to be issued on schedule no matter what the science [is] or people’s views are,” he said.

Montallana said their alliance would ask for reconsider­ation from the DENR before seeking court action.

Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, a Manobo tribal leader, meanwhile scored the supposed lack of consultati­on with indigenous communitie­s that will be affected by the project.

“Have they conducted any consultati­on with the Dumagat tribe and other communitie­s who will be displaced by this dam project? If they did, where are the results?” she asked.

Sought for comment, DENR Undersecre­tary Benny Antiporda said the ECC was issued because it was a priority project of the government and the agency had no recourse but to approve it.

But the DENR said it would revoke the ECC if the proponents failed to secure the required permits from the NCIP and the host local government units.

The ECC is among the requiremen­ts needed to proceed with the constructi­on of a gravity dam on Kaliwa River, which will cover a reservoir surface area of 291 hectares, with a gross reservoir volume of 57 million cubic meters at full supply level.

Six months after receipt of ECC, the proponent should submit a duly signed memorandum of agreement with concerned local government­s for a social developmen­t program.

It should also ensure that sacred sites and burial grounds as well as livelihood among the natives are preserved.

For groups resisting the project, the promise of easing the water shortage in Metro Manila and nearby provinces comes at an unfair exchange of destroyed ecosystems and environmen­tal risks in Teresa and Tanay in Rizal province, and General Nakar and Infanta in Quezon.

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