Kaliwa Dam feared to worsen flooding in Metro Manila

In the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses, which submerged many areas in the metropolis, concerns were now raised about the forthcoming construction of the P12-billion Kaliwa Dam, which is feared to worsen the flooding in Rizal province and Metro Manila.

Photo credit: http://mwss.gov.ph/projects/new-centennial-water-source-kaliwa-dam-project/

Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances said the Kaliwa Dam, which is being pushed for by the Duterte Administration and is pegged as the top solution to Metro Manila’s water woes, would only “destroy ecosystems while displacing local communities”.

The P12-billion Kaliwa Dam project is a joint venture of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC).

It 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).

"The impacts Typhoon Ulysses left in its wake is catastrophic, yet it would have been worse if not for the protective barrier provided by the Sierra Madre which slightly weakened it,” Arances said in a text exchange with Business Bulletin.  

“The onslaught of successive typhoons we experienced recently is a stark reminder of the dire state of our climate, and this must be noted above all in considering any project proposal,” he added.  

To be constructed by CEEC through the Philippine government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) deal with China, the Kaliwa Dam project secured its environment clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in October last year, but with many conditions.

Earlier this year, MWSS Administrator Emmanuel Salamat said his agency is still waiting for one last permit, which will come from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), before the government can give the green light for the actual construction of the highly controversial Kaliwa Dam project.

Kaliwa Dam is considered as the government's long-term solution to the water woes in Metro Manila, which has long been dependent on the 53-year old Angat Dam.

Located in Bulacan, Angat Dam supplies 97 percent of Metro Manila's water needs.

In a separate statement, CEED, a research institution that advocates for energy democracy and

ecological integrity, asked the Philippine government to cease all logging, mining, and quarrying operations in the Sierra Madre and other watersheds and forests in the country and to immediately step up reforestation and adaptation  efforts to help mitigate the effects of typhoons.

“The Filipino people are indeed resilient, yet the narrative of resilience seems to have become a convenient excuse for our leaders to be negligent,” CEED said.

CEED also demanded the international community, particularly developed countries, to work to bring about in developing countries a sustainable lifestyle, which follows the tenets of ecological and climate justice, and account for the loss and damages experienced by communities most at risk from the climate crisis.

“The Philippines is not alone in shouldering climate responsibilities, and the government led by the president and the cabinet must be at the forefront of calling out climate injustice," CEED said.

"It is the least they can do and a debt ought to be paid to climate-vulnerable peoples after unleashing the tide of industrialization which triggered the climate crisis in the first place,” it added.

To recall, Ulysses, considered the deadliest typhoon that hit the country so far for this year, also caused massive flooding in other parts of Luzon, including Cagayan, which is now dealing with widespread, unprecedented flooding.

Government officials said the water discharge from Magat Dam, one of the biggest dams in Asia, contributed to the massive flooding.

Meanwhile, Arances welcomed the move of Commission on Audit (COA) to question various

technicalities on the Kaliwa dam project, including the validity of consent from tribal communities and indigenous people in Quezon province.

"We are glad that a government body is finally questioning the Kaliwa Dam project, proponents of which have been elbowing their way toward project development using harassment and aggression against local communities,” Arances said.

“Indigenous leaders have long refuted claims that they already gave their consent to the mega dam - effectively damning their families to cultural and economic displacement - and we hope that findings of COA would help start to set things right. We in the civil society sector will stand united with local communities in their resistance until the Kaliwa Dam project is completely shelved,” he added.

An earlier report in Manila Bulletin showed that COA, in its 2019 annual audit report for MWSS, questioned the agency’s issuance of the notice to proceed (NTP) for the detailed engineering, design and construction of Kaliwa Dam.

“The expropriation of lots particularly for the right of way affected by Kaliwa Dam Project is still pending, hence considered a ground for the termination of the contract under Section 17.6 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Republic Act 9184 also known as the Government Procurement Reform Law,” COA said.

The agency also pointed out that since the contract between the MWSS and CEEC is not covered by any treaty, international or executive agreement, the provisions of RA 9184 must apply.

It likewise said that the conditions for the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the project have yet to be complied with, thus, preventing the MWSS and CEEC to implement the project.

Among the ECC conditions is the issuance of Certificate of Precondition after the Free and Prior Informed Consent that should have been obtained from cultural communities and indigenous people who will be displaced and adversely affected by the project in the provinces of Rizal and Quezon.