By Genalyn Kabiling
The China-funded Kaliwa Dam project is a cheaper and better deal compared to the weir project proposed by a Japanese company to boost water supply in Metro Manila, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) administrator Reynaldo Velasco declared Wednesday.
Velasco said the construction of the Kaliwa Dam would only cost $248 million or P12.2 billion, compared to the Osaka-based Global Utility Development Corp. Ltd.’s proposed $410 million Kaliwa Intake Weir project.
The Kaliwa dam project in Quezon, or the New Centennial Water Supply Project, will be funded by the official development assistance (ODA) rom China. It is expected to provide 600 million liters per day (MLD) to Metro Manila and nearby areas.
“Tapos na po ang bidding dito eh, may nanalo na. 248 million lang talaga po iyan at 12.2 billion. Hindi po iyan $800 million na sinasabi. So, hindi po totoo iyong sinasabi na masyadong mahal ang ating Kaliwa Dam [The bidding is complete, there’s a winner already. It costs 248 million or P12.2 billion. It’s not $800 million. It’s not true that the Kaliwa Dam is too expensive],” Velasco said during a Palace press briefing.
Apart from reasonable cost, Velasco said the proposed Kaliwa Dam could provide water storage during the rainy season, unlike the weir, a low dam that cannot store water. He said water reserve in the dam could then be used during the dry season.
“Kaya dam 69 meters – para pag tag-ulan mag-iipon tayo ng tubig, para pag tag-init may tubig tayo na i-distribute [We prefer the 69-meter high dam so when it’s rainy season, we can store water so we can distribute supply during the dry season],” he said.
The Japanese company recently renewed its proposal to build the Kaliwa Intake Weir project, claiming it was cost-efficient alternative to address Metro Manila’s water situation.
GUDC chief executive officer Toshikazu Nomura said the project, under a 25-year Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme, would cost $410 million. It will have a capacity of 550 million liters per day.
Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino, however, defended that the Kaliwa Dam project cost and benefits to the country.
Lambino, in the same Palace press conference, said the government was actually able to cut cost of the Kaliwa dam project when it decided to pursue it through a Chinese loan.
He noted that the project would amount to P18.7 billion under the public private partnership (PPP) program, but the ODA reduced the cost to P12.2 billion.
The final project cost, which could reach P14.5 billion with 2 percent interest per year, was still cheaper than the PPP arrangement, he added.
Lambino also brushed aside concerns that the country might fall into a Chinese debt trap. He said the country’s projected debt exposure to China was estimated only at 4.5 percent, compared to the 9.5 percent from Japan.
“Walang panganib na malunod tayo sa utang sa China [There is no danger of drowning in debt with China],” he said.