Oppositors to Kaliwa Dam project invoke FOI law to look into the proposal’s papers

Published March 21, 2019, 3:48 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Raymund Antonio

Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Chel Diokno on Thursday said that groups opposing the construction of Kaliwa Dam have requested the government to give them access to official documents related to the project.


“Kami ay nagpadala ng sulat kay Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea at pati na rin kay Secretary Teodoro Locsin of the Department of Foreign Affairs,” said Diokno, who represents the groups as their lead lawyer, in a press briefing.

(We sent a letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Secretary Teodoro Locsin of the Department of Foreign Affairs.)

He added it was a “Freedom of Information letter, asking government officials to release the documents regarding the Kaliwa Dam project within 15 days.”

Signing the letter were Apolinar Derilo, chairperson of Task Force Sierra Madre for Balance Ecology; Fr. Peter Montalliana, chairperson of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance; and Conrado Vargas, executive director of Prelature of Infanta-Community Organization of the Philippines.

The others were Marcelino Tena, president of Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta/Dumagat – Remontado na Binabaka at Ipinagtatanggol ang Lupang Ninuno; Bishop Bernardino Cortez, Oscar Catilo, and Demosthenes Raynera.

Vargas, Montalliana, Tena, and Catilo accompanied Diokno in the press conference. They vowed legal action should the government fail to comply.

The groups are against the China-funded Kaliwa Dam because building the P12.2-billion dam would adversely affect the lives of the indigenous peoples and the communities in General Nakar and Infanta, Quezon.

The Kaliwa Dam, which is part of the New Centennial Water Source Project, seeks to address the water shortage problem in Metro Manila and Rizal. This would have a capacity of 600 million liters of water per day.

Diokno, a human rights lawyer, said they specifically asked Medialdea and Locsin to produce two main documents. Under the law, they have 15 days to comply with their request.

These were the Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement on the NCWSP between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewage System and the Export-Import Bank of China, and the Commercial Contract of project between the MWSS and the China Energy Engineering Corporation.

Diokno emphasized that Filipinos have a constitutional right to know the terms of the deal.

“We are also concerned that these contracts may contain onerous provisions,” he said. “We will not know that if they are hiding these documents.”

Diokno pointed out that access to documents regarding the deal with China should help the public evaluate other proposals.

“We believe that it is a matter of public interest to know what are its terms and conditions, so we can also compare with the other proposals, and ensure that damage to the environment is avoided or minimized,” he said.

Caution grew over the Chinese loan for the dam project as it was noted that it could be more expensive than the proposal submitted by a Japanese firm.

The groups also raised concerns that the MWSS might be using a supposed water shortage in Metro Manila to railroad the construction of the dam.

“Tinitingnan po namin ang MWSS, hindi naman po makatotohanan na kulang talaga ang tubig sa Maynila (We are looking at MWSS, it is not true that water is lacking in Manila),” Tena said.

Montalliano also noted that the dam construction might not be the answer to ensure a steady supply of water.