The tunnel excavation for the P12-billion Kaliwa Dam, considered by the Duterte Administration as its biggest solution to Metro Manila’s water woes, is set to begin in December this year, according to Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
In a statement, MWSS revealed that the tunnel boring machine (TBM) called “Sampaguita” in reference to the Philippines’ national flower, will be used to excavate 21.7 kilometers of tunnel for the massive Kaliwa Dam is now “ready to roll.”
The TBM, built in China by a company called China Railway Construction Heavy Industry, Co., Ltd (CRCHI), is expected to arrive at the Port of Manila in July 2021. It will then be transported to the outlet portal in Teresa, Rizal to be re-assembled.
A joint venture of MWSS and China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC), Kaliwa Dam, will have the capacity to treat as much as 600 million liters of water per day (mld). It traverses the provinces of Rizal and Quezon, will be constructed by CEEC through an Official Development Assistance (ODA) deal between the Philippines and China.
At present, Metro Manila is largely dependent on Angat Dam, a 54-year-old dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
MWSS Chairman Reynaldo Velasco admitted that he has concerns about the required infrastructure needed to construct Kaliwa Dam.
“When I consider the magnitude of the required infrastructure, and knowing that to operate a TBM, 200 to 500 meters below the Sierra Madre mountains, crossing population centers in Rizal, technical hazards are likely to be present,” Velasco said.
However, he takes comfort in the fact that the “MWSS’ project team is experienced in complex tunneling and underground projects and that China, is one of the reliable global suppliers of the TBM.”
He also reminded CRCHI and CEEC officials that “MWSS expects nothing short of excellent after-sales and accessory support.”
For his part, Cheng Yongliang, general manager of CRCHI, said the TBM is irrefutable proof of the mutually beneficial cooperation between the Philippines and China through the Build, Build, Build program and the Belt and Road Initiative.
“TBM-Sampaguita promises to provide an increased level of safety, as well as minimal surface disturbance and faster progress. All of these things will help to speed up tunnel construction,” MWSS said.
The official factory acceptance ceremony for the TBM by CEEC and CRCHI was held on May 18, 2021. It was successfully rolled off the production line, passed the factory acceptance test, and accepted by the CEEC.
The factory acceptance testing was witnessed by MWSS Board of Trustees and Management officials, the Presidents of MWSS’ two concessionaires, and graced by personalities from Beijing and Changsa, China. The event was conducted virtually and included a live demonstration of the completed and powered main body and cutter head with the rotating cutter disc is in operation.
Guest of honor Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs and Projects Vince Dizon expressed optimism about the TBM’s arrival, stating that stable and sustainable water supply will soon become a reality.
He lauded the current MWSS administration, who he said, will go down in history as the group that brought Kaliwa Dam to life.
In May, MWSS and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have already drafted a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that will pave the way for the construction of the Kaliwa Dam.
Moreover, MWSS and NCIP Region IV-A have already conducted a validation/ratification of such a draft, and that the event was even attended by more than a hundred indigenous peoples (IP).
The MOA was drafted after a series of government negotiations with IPs of Quezon Province, that were held from October 13 to 15, 2020, and with the IPs of Rizal Province, which was conducted from November 3 to 5, 2020.
The negotiations, which were a part of the process to obtain the required Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for the Kaliwa Dam project, were facilitated by NCIP.
The FPIC application process for Kaliwa Dam project started in 2018, but was faced with many delays primarily due to environmental concerns expressed by several groups and communities toward the project.
But STOP Kaliwa Dam Network (SKDN) denounced the move of MWSS and NCIP to meet with the IPs despite the threat of COVID-19 in General Nakar and Infanta, Quezon, and the unresolved concerns regarding the FPIC process.
“This MOA Validation only puts the IPs at risk of contracting the virus. It also violates the existing IATF lockdown protocols prohibiting any large gathering in communities,” said SKDN, which also condemned the alleged red-tagging of the Dumagats by the state forces.