By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang is open to making public the documents concerning the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project if it is not restricted by Freedom of Information (FOI) rules.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea made the statement after lawyer and opposition senatorial candidate Chel Diokno, along with some other groups, sent letters to Medialdea and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., requesting official documents on the project, invoking the FOI.
Diokno said the request for the official documents was meant to check if there were “onerous provisions” in the agreement with China.
In a text message, Medialdea said the government would release such documents if they would conform with existing FOI rules.
“This administration early on has made it clear that it will be transparent,” Medialdea stressed.
“We will abide by the FOI rules in place. I don’t think it is a matter of discretion if the document is covered by the FOI and the procedure is followed,” he added.
The Kaliwa Dam project in Tanay, Rizal is facing opposition from environmental groups and local officials, saying it would displace Indigenous Peoples and will have an adverse effect on the environment.
The project, funded through a loan from China, will cost $248 million or P12.2 billion to complete.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo refused to comment on the request of the parties opposing the said project, saying it was up to Medialdea to answer.
He said President Duterte could still stop the construction of the dam if it would be found that the deal is fraudulent.
“Of course, the President can stop anything, unless na ano may kontrata na nagpirmahan na (a contract was already signed),” Panelo said.
“Baka may (There might be) impairment of obligations sa (in the) contract. Pero pwede pa rin (But he can still scrap it) if there was fraud committed,” he added.
The China-funded Kaliwa Dam project, which is aimed to address the water shortage in Metro Manila, is funded by China’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines.
According to Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Reynaldo Velasco, the project was already a “done deal.”
Following the water crisis, Japan-based Global Utility Development Corp. (GUDC) asked Duterte to consider its proposal of constructing a safer and cheaper dam on Kaliwa River.