COA audit sought on P20-M released by MWSS to Quezon tribal group

Published March 23, 2021, 6:39 PM

by Ben Rosario

Congressmen on Tuesday, March 23, called on the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit on the P20 million the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System released to a Dumagat community as they warned that the amount may have been used as “grease money” to soften the tribal group’s stand against the construction of the Kaliwa River Dam.

This developed as Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang demanded an explanation on why the MWSS has started to bid out the multi-billion peso contract for the construction of the dam without adhering to the ‘free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) guidelines.

Mangaoang, chairman of the House Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples, started the congressional inquiry into alleged anomalies that have allegedly been committed in the implementation of the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project and the awarding of the contract to the China Energy Engineering Co. Limited.

During the public hearing, Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro  called the committees attention to the claim of Agta-Dumagat leader Marcelino Tena that the MWSS has pursued the bidding and contract awarding for the project even before they could secure the FPIC from six tribal communities that will be adversely affected by the project.

“Marami silang paglabag una sa FPIC, lima sa anim na cluster ang walang consent pero tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang construction nila (They first violated the FPIC, five of the six cluster did not give their consent but construction went on),” said Tena.

The tribal cluster that gave the FPIC consent allegedly recevied P20 miliion from the MWSS.

Tena’s claim prompted Zarate and Castro to propose a special audit on how the fund was spent.

“Parang padulas ito, they are using the carrot and stick method (This appears to be a bribe)” said Zarate, referring to the P20 million that MWSS released.

IP leader Thelma Aumentado vehemently denied that the MWSS money was meant as a bribe to convince their cluster to give their consent to the project.

According to Aumentado the money was part of the water firm’s financial responsibility to their community in connection with the construction of the Angat-Umiray project in Quezon.

Aumentado described the payment as “disturbance fee” for IP groups affected by the Umiray project.

Mangaoang backed the call for the conduct of a special audit to determine the legality of the release of P20 million to one of the IP clusters.

Implementation of the Kaliwa Dam project has been met by strong opposition from IP groups in Rizal and Quezon who will be displaced as a result construction of the infrastructure.

The dam has been identified as the main source of potable water for Metro Manila and neighboring localities in Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna in the next 20 to 30 years.