By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is still waiting for one last permit, which will come from the National Commision on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), to greenlight the construction of the highly controversial Kaliwa Dam project.
Despite this , MWSS Administrator Emmanuel Salamat is hopeful that the construction for the project, which has been pegged by the Duterte administration as the top solution to Metro Manila’s water woes, could still push through within the second half of this year.
In an interview, Salamat told Business Bulletin that MWSS is still in the process of addressing some concerns that several communities of Indigenous People (IP) from Rizal and Quezon province have against the project.
The ₱12-billion Kaliwa Dam project involves the construction of a massive dam in Quezon and Rizal province that will have a capacity to treat as much as 600 million liters of water per day (mld).
To be constructed by China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC) through the Philippine government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) deal with China, the project secured its environment clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in October last year, but with many conditions.
These conditions include ensuring that “sacred sites and burial grounds, as well as the IPs culture and livelihood” in the areas covered by the project are not disturbed.
The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 also requires the project’s proponents to secure from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and other clearances from the IP communities that will be affected.
“We already said that we will not proceed with the construction until we get the NCIP permit. Right now, we are already in MOA [memorandum of agreement] negotiation after completing the assembly and consultation with communities,” Salamat said.
Salamat explained that consultations have different levels and that if members of the IP communities will not approve the project, the concern will be brought directly to the “elders and chieftains” of the IP groups.
“We are following the process that NCIP prescribed. Now we are on the MOA framework negotiation,” he said.
In January, Marcelino Tena, Head of Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta/ Dumagat, told Business Bulletin that while MWSS indeed conducted consultations with them, a lot of their members didn’t give their consent to the project.
“There are more of us who said no to the project than those who said yes. And those who said yes were invited to a separate room during the consultation meetings,” Tena said. “From the very start, we already said no to this project. Our position is non-consent from day one.”
Tena and his colleagues believe that the Kaliwa Dam project will destroy their ancestral land and will result to the displacement of thousands of IPs.
Nevertheless, Salamat said the government is now “including all the request and interventions that we are supposed to provide to IP communities” before proceeding with the project’s construction.