MWSS yet to secure consent for Kaliwa Dam project

Published August 2, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is yet to secure two important documents that will allow it to commence the actual works for the P12-billion Kaliwa Dam, pegged by the Duterte Administration as its top solution to Metro Manila’s water woes.

In an interview, MWSS Acting Administrator and Chairman Reynaldo Velasco said the Kaliwa Dam project, a joint venture of MWSS and China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC), still lacks Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and Special Use Agreement in Protected Areas (SAPA).

MWSS Acting Administrator and Chairman Reynaldo Velasco (Photo credit:

The FPIC will come from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), while the SAPA will have to come from the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

FPIC refers to the consensus of all members of the indigenous people (IP) communities in a particular project within their ancestral lands, while SAPA is the binding instrument between the DENR, as the first party, and the project proponent relating to the use and development of land, resources, or facilities within protected areas.

Velasco said that the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) is already getting involved in the project because of the delays.

“ARTA is working on it because it’s a government project. It’s the ARTA now that is assisting [us because of the delays. ARTA is becoming involved here because of the delay,” Velasco told Business Bulletin.

He then said that residents of Metro Manila will suffer the most because of the delays since “they will pay for the cost of the water.”

Metro Manila is still largely dependent on the 54-year old Angat Dam, getting 90 percent of its water needs from it.

Kaliwa Dam, on the other hand, will have the capacity to treat as much as 600 million liters of water per day (mld), and is the government’s only long-term solution to Metro Manila’s water woes.The project traverses the provinces of Rizal and Quezon,

The Philippine government has been eyeing the Kaliwa River watershed as a major water source for Metro Manila and nearby areas since the Marcos Administration.

The Kaliwa Dam project was then formally resurrected by the Duterte Administration back in 2017 when it was awarded to CEEC through an Official Development Assistance (ODA) deal between China and the Philippines.

Because of its potential impact on the environment, the project has been facing a lot of opposition, coming from several environmental groups as well as some members of the communities living in the affected areas.

In June, however, MWSS said it expects to already begin the tunnel excavation for the Kaliwa Dam in December of this year, while the tunnel boring machine (TBM) that will be used for this activity is expected to arrive in the Philippines any time soon.

The TBM will be coming from China and was built by a company called China Railway Construction Heavy Industry, Co., Ltd (CRCHI).

Asked if the tunnel excavation can push through sans the SAPA and FPIC, Velasco said yes but it will only cover areas that are not part of an ancestral domain.

“The [TBM] has not arrived yet,” Velasco said. “We can start but only in those areas that are not covered by ancestral domains just so further delays will be avoided.”

“For areas that are part of ancestral domains, I have a commitment that we will only start if we can complete the requirements needed for it,” he further said.

Earlier, 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.

According to Velasco, 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.”