By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said the government can still rescind its contract with China for the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project if it would be proven that the project is disadvantageous for the country.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after militant groups doubted that there was really another water crisis in Metro Manila, saying the government may have just been using it as an excuse to push for the dam project.
In his Monday press briefing, Panelo said they are still waiting for the investigation on the Kaliwa Dam project to conclude but said that if it would be proven that the project would put the country at a disadvantage, China would understand if the Philippines decides to back out.
“If the findings will show that it is indeed disadvantageous and is against the interest of the people there, then it can be rescinded,” he said.
“If the findings will show that it is against the interest of our country, I’m sure the Chinese government will understand as it would do the same if it was placed in the same situation,” he added.
Over the weekend, Panelo denied claims that the looming water crisis in Metro Manila was just a front so the government can push for the said project. He said the Duterte Administration was not in the business of spreading lies.
Earlier, the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the selection of the contractor for the Kaliwa Dam project, saying the results of its bidding was in the “guise of being a competitive procurement process.”
The COA also said in its report released over the weekend that two of the three Chinese contractors, supposedly, intentionally did not comply with the qualification requirements.
Earlier, Panelo said that if found true, it will be up to President Duterte to decide whether or not to suspend the contract.
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, Panelo refused to comment on the request of the parties opposing the said project, saying it was up to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to answer. Medialdea earlier said that Malacañang is open to making public the documents concerning the said project if it is not restricted by the Freedom of Information (FOI) rules.
Panelo also said that President Duterte could still stop the construction of the dam if it would be found that the deal is fraudulent.
The China-funded Kaliwa Dam project, aimed to address the water shortage in Metro Manila, is funded by China’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines.