LUCENA CITY – Quezon Governor Danilo Suarez made a commitment that, as long he is the chief executive of the province, he will oppose the construction of Kaliwa Dam, a joint venture project of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and China Energy Engineering Corporation costing P12 billion.
Suarez made this commitment before the members of Save Sierra Madre network, a group that opposes the construction in the town of Infanta.
“I’m with you, I don’t like Kaliwa dam either” Suarez assured. “If you would continue Kaliwa Dam, I’d see you in court.”
Residents of Real, Infanta and General Nakar towns, collectively known as REINA, and indigenous peoples groups have opposed the construction of the dam, tracing back to the tragic flash flood and mudslides that inundated their areas on November 29, 2004, killing more than a thousand people.
And it was for this reason that Suarez was standing squarely behind the Save Sierra Madre Network in its opposition to the dam.
Suarez had a meeting with the groups opposed to the construction of Kaliwa dam in Infanta, while he was conducting relief operations after the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses that hit the Polillo island group and the REINA area.
“Why are we going to borrow money, and let the government ultimately pay the lender, when there are private sectors who can do the job without harming the government,” Suarez also pointed out.
On Friday, November 27, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Quezon, headed by Vice Governor Samuel Nantes, passed a resolution, giving Suarez the authority to take necessary steps, on behalf of the provincial government, to stop the construction of the proposed P12-billion Kaliwa Dam, which, they claim, would pose harm to the people and the environment.
The resolution was approved by 11 of the 13 members of the provincial board presided by Nantes.
The leadership of the local Catholic church in the province also renewed its opposition to the multi-billion mega-dam project, saying the fight was a matter of survival of the people.
Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta reiterated that the Kaliwa Dam project would pose risks to lowland agricultural and fishing communities with a history of flash flooding.
The prelature, which covers the northern part of Quezon and the Aurora province, lies along the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and on the east of the vast Pacific Ocean.
The area is also home to thousands of Dumagats, an indigenous community in the highlands of Infanta.
“So you will understand that, by geography, our very survival depends on the care of our mountains, forests, rivers, protection of mangroves and seashores,” Cortez said.
Cortez urged the government to instead look for alternative sources of water, such as watershed rehabilitation and improving existing dams and water facilities.
“We hope and pray that our people in this ‘Jubilee for the Earth’ will develop a new mindset and a paradigm shift in our care and use of the common home,” he said.