By Raymund Antonio
Why will we borrow when we don’t have to spend?
Vice President Leni Robredi raised this question with the administration over its decision to borrow money from China to finance the P18.7-billion Kaliwa Dam project.
Robredo asked why the government decided to have the dam construction funded through official development assistance (ODA) from China instead of the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
“Ang 85 percent, utang natin sa China, 15 percent tayo iyong gagastos. So, hindi ko talaga alam, kung bakit mas gugustuhin nating umutang kaysa wala tayong gagastusin,” she said on her weekly radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni.”
(The 85 percent will be borrowed from China, 15 percent to be shouldered by us. So, I don’t know why we would prefer to borrow rather than not spend.)
The dam project seeks to address the water supply crisis in Metro Manila and Rizal with the development of a new water source. This would have a capacity of 600 million liters of water per day.
The Kaliwa Dam, which is part of the New Centennial Water Source Project, will be constructed in the municipalities of General Nakar and Infanta in Quezon province.
Last year, the government ordered the shift in financing for the NCWSP from PPP to ODA with China.
Robredo also raised concerns that Filipinos will be at a disadvantage once the project is awarded to a foreign company.
“At saka kapag Pilipinong kumpanya, ang income sa atin, iyong mga taong i-ha-hire, sa atin. Nakita naman natin iyong mga projects na hindi Pilipino iyong kompanya, parang walang advantage para sa mga Pilipino magkatrabaho,” she said.
(And if it’s a Philippine company, the income goes to us, the people who will be hired come from us. We have seen in foreign projects, Filipinos have no advantage when it comes to jobs.)
Apart from these, she also cited the strong opposition of environmental groups and communities, especially the ethnic tribe Dumagat-Remontados which will be affected by the construction of the dam.
The Vice President said there are alternative sources to the Kaliwa Dam. She mentioned the rehabilitation of the existing dams.
“Ang tanong noong mga tao doon, at saka noong mga environmental groups, bakit ipipilit iyong ganitong kalaking project kung mayroon namang ibang sources of water,” she said.
(The question of the people and environmental groups is why would they push for this big project if there were alternative sources of water.)