By Christina Hermoso
Several Catholic Church leaders are against the construction of a dam in a rainforest in Quezon Province, which the bishops said, will displace tribespeople living in the area.
The Kaliwa Dam project is among 75 flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration with an estimated cost of about P18.7 billion to build.
Infanta Bishop Bernardino Cortez stressed the construction of the dam is expected to bring a number of problems in the area.
“It will inundate the ancestral domain of the Dumagat-Remontados, uprooting them from the Sierra Madre where their ancestors lived for centuries. In 2004, a flash flood claimed more than a thousand lives and over a million worth of properties,” Cortez said in a Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) News post.
“Kaliwa Dam to be constructed over the Infanta Fault will be a ‘sword hanging over the head’ of 100,000 people living downstream the Kaliwa River,” the prelate added.
The CBCP said, more than 50 Church leaders have expressed resistance to the proposed dam project including Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the bishops’ organization. Others who signed the statement include Archbishops Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Jose Palma of Cebu, and Rolando Tria Tirona of Nueva Caceres, who also heads Caritas Philippines.
“This project, which is connected with the Laiban Dam has been in the pipeline for 30 years, yet until now it does not even have the necessary Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC),” Cortez said.
The bishops urged the government to instead look for alternative sources of water such as the rehabilitation of the Pasig-Laguna River Basin which would only cost P13 billion. The government may also adopt the Singapore New Water technology which treats wastewater to become potable, the Church leaders said.
The bishops also called on the government to launch a massive information drive for the 13 million Metro Manila residents to learn water management.
“This would reduce water consumption significantly. This could be bad news for business but best for the environment,” Cortez said. “Let us also protect and expand our dwindling forests that serve as our largest watershed and these would refill our underground aquifers which are now over-extracted. We encourage all to ‘rethink how to use water’ in terms of the demand-side and consumption and protect our environment,” Cortez stressed.