By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Concerns were raised against the “conditions” set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) upon its issuance of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the controversial ₱12-billion Kaliwa Dam Project, the biggest water infrastructure project eyed to start within this administration.
Without an ECC, any project that may potentially have an impact to the environment like Kaliwa, which involves the construction of a massive dam in the middle of a forest somewhere in Quezon Province, could not push through.
But, ECC is no longer a concern for the Kaliwa Dam project now because on October 11, the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) already released the much awaited environment clearance for the China-funded water source.
And for the project’s contractor, EMB had set several conditions to abide by China Energy Engineering Corporation following the ECC issuance.
This includes submitting an inventory and assessment of threatened species that may be affected by the project; ensure that sacred sites and burial grounds, as well as the Indigenous People’s culture and livelihood, are preserved and protected; the establishment of a reforestation and carbon sink program using endemic/indigenous species to offset greenhouse gas emissions; and the preservation and protection of Tinipak Spring and Tinipak White Rocks.
The thing with the issuance of ECCs “with conditions” in general is that it would now be hard to take back the permit if these conditions weren’t met, Ipat Luna of the DENR said.
“[Setting] conditions are dangerous [because] you could no longer dial it back in case they are not met. Also, I have always been against conditions that should have been complied with prior to the ECC, such as additional studies,” Luna said, citing the presentations she made before joining the DENR.
Gerry Arances, director of environmental think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, shares the same concern with Luna.
Referring to the ECC issued to Kaliwa Dam, Arances said “the problem is that it clearly violates certain laws specially the social acceptability, in this case that of the IPs [Indigenous People].”
“It’s a requisite in the ECC that a project has social acceptability,” Arances said in a text exchange.
Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, Inc. (SSMNA), Alyansa Laban sa Kaliwa Dam, Task Force Sierra Madre, and Tribal Center for Development all argued that the construction of a massive dam at the heart of Quezon and Rizal provinces will be detrimental to the environment and the IP communities living in these areas.