By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Cause-oriented and civil society organizations are opposing the proposed construction of a P12.2 billion (US$231 million) mega dam inside the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve in the provinces of Rizal and Quezon.
According to the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), a network of civil society organizations, rights groups, peace and faith-based institutions, the proposed New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project (NCWS-KDP) is “a threat and perhaps a disaster waiting to happen to Quezon province and some parts of Rizal province that might even annihilate the Dumagats and Remontado tribal people living in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges.”
The project being part of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program of the Duterte administration to be financed by China is a P12.2 billion (US$231 million) mega dam that aims to ensure water supply for the fast-growing metropolitan Manila and surrounding areas.
The NCWS-KDP will be constructed inside the declared Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve, under Proclamation No. 573, s. 1968 and under Proclamation No. 1636 in 1977.
It will cover 291 hectares of forest from the total 9,800 hectares in Infanta Kaliwa Watershed, including the site of Dumagat-Remontado in the areas of Tinipak in Barangay Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal province.
The group pointed out that the dam’s construction “will endanger the rich biodiversity in the Sierra Madre and also adversely affect the whole ecosystem in the surrounding areas including the symbiotic relationship between the tribal people and their ancestral lands.”
“We do not agree that in the name of development, our brother and sister IP’s should be sacrificed and displaced from their ancestral lands if ever these dam projects will push through. We are against any form of development that would sacrifice the lives of other living species in the forest and river ecosystem. We need to take into account the rights of people and Mother Nature in any development plan and projects,” PMPI national coordinator Yolly Esguerra, said.
PMPI also called on the local government particularly the Executive Committee of the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Calabarzon, which endorsed the proposed multi-billion peso dam project to heed the voice of its constituents.
It also pointed out that there was much opposition from various environmental groups and indigenous peoples.
The group noted that the rights of the Dumagats and Remontados have been violated when they were deprived of a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as required by Republic Act (RA) 8371 or Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 by the ongoing construction of the access road from Sitio Kamagong, Brgy. Magsaysay, Infanta up to Sitio Queborosa, Brgy. Pagsangahan, General Nakar, both in Quezon province.
Also, the said proposed project would essentially violate RA 7586, since the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has yet to issue an environmental compliance certificate, the group said.
“Thus, we strongly ask President Duterte to rescind the loan agreement he officially signed with Chinese President Xi Jinping last November that will fund the project,” they added
“We are against it, because many lives will be at risk and livelihood will be affected. The proposed 60-meter high Kaliwa Dam will be constructed within a zone of two active tectonics represented by the Philippine Fault Zone and the Valley Fault System. We do not oppose the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program per se, but these will endanger and displace many people. Even a country like Japan with their technology and all, they were caught flat-footed when the 2011 earthquake hit them,” PMPI Southern Tagalog cluster point person Conrado Vargas said.
“Instead of building mega dams, the government and its primary water agency like the MWSS should look into alternative ways to manage our water resources towards a more sustainable and ecological way. For example, the use of Deep Tunnel Sewerage System to convey used water by gravity to centralized water reclamation plants and used water is treated and further purified into ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water called NEWater, like what the Singapore did on their water systems. That is more economical than constructing mega dam,” he added.
Other ways are rehabilitation of Wawa Dam and Pasig-Laguna river basin, desiltation of Angat Dam, and also the restoration of the deteriorating forest covers of the Sierra Madre ranges that serve as our watershed should be the government’s top priority, Vargas said.