De Lima calls for suspension of construction activities in Kaliwa Dam project


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima underscored the need to suspend all construction activities on the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project immediately, until all the legal prerequisites are met by the implementing agencies and nagging issues settled.

De Lima filed Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 909 urging the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to immediately suspend construction activities in the Kaliwa Dam project following successive reports citing multiple irregularities and violations of procedural guidelines and protocols in its implementation.

“Government remains hell-bent to push forward with the project, despite credible claims that the social, cultural, environmental, and economic costs of the Kaliwa Dam Project outweigh its purported benefits,” she said.

“There is a need to determine once and for all the viability of the Kaliwa Dam Project and the impacts it will have on its primary stakeholders, particularly the local indigenous population,” she added.

This month, the COA, for the third time, flagged the MWSS for proceeding with the implementation of the Kaliwa Dam project without proof of compliance with environmental prerequisites and submission of necessary permits.

The said report noted that based on the MWSS’ 2020 report on projects, programs and activities, the detailed engineering and design phase of the dam project was 92.67 percent complete at the end of the year.

“This was despite the MWSS’ failure to show proof that the preconditions set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under an environmental compliance certificate issued on 11 October 2019 have been complied with,” De Lima noted.

Notably, issues and controversies have surrounded the project since its inception, with critics pointing out, among others, that is it a “debt trap,” because the loan agreement is said to be unfavorably tilted towards China with its unusually high interest rate, exclusivity to Chinese contactors, and bias for Chinese laws.

The Kaliwa Dam project is expected to provide redundancy of water source and augment supply from Angat Dam and help prevent water shortage problems for the ever-growing population of Metro Manila.

In a report of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities which held an investigation on the Kaliwa Dam project, it was stated that “laws protecting indigenous peoples’ rights were not complied within the course of implementing the project.”

The lady Senator from Bicol stressed that those who allowed such construction activities to commence in the first place, despite not having secured the necessary prerequisites including the consent of the affected Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs), must be held accountable under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 and other relevant laws.

“With the controversies surrounding the Kaliwa Dam project, there is also a need to explore alternatives to address water security so that we may not only protect the rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral lands but also maintain the beauty and biodiversity of our forests and mountainous regions,” she said.

Last year, De Lima filed PSR No. 578 urging Congress to look into the reported deficiencies and other irregularities flagged by the COA, including the failure to obtain the consent of IPs in the construction of the China-funded Kaliwa Dam.(30)

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