Even with mounting opposition against the controversial Kaliwa Dam project, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is set to proceed with the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the mega-dam to jumpstart its construction.
Together with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), MWSS will gather Dumagat leaders in General Nakar, Quezon Province this week to supposedly process papers indicating their consent to the said project and railroad the MOA validation process.
The Kaliwa Dam Project is part of the list included in Administrative Order No. (AO) 32 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last August 2020. AO 32 seeks to expedite “the review and approval process of infrastructure flagship projects on water security.” The construction of the mega-dam will be funded through a US$283.2 million loan deal with China, and a Chinese contractor – China Energy Engineering Corporation Limited – is set to take on the project.
The railroading of the project comes at the heels of a Commission on Audit (COA) report that called out the MWSS for implementing the P12.2-billion dam project without proof of compliance with environmental prerequisites and submission of necessary documents. According to COA, the MWSS failed to show evidence that the preconditions set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources under an environmental compliance certificate issued on Oct. 11, 2019, have been complied with.
“The flagging of MWSS by COA proved the legitimacy of indigenous peoples’ decades-long call to halt the construction of the massive destructive Kaliwa Dam project,” noted the group Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).
MWSS has repeatedly reasoned that the construction of the Kaliwa Dam will increase Metro Manila’s water supply and will reduce the capital’s dependence on the Angat Dam Reservoir.
However, according to KAMP, more than 100,000 individuals or 1,400 families of the Dumagat-Remontado indigenous group will be severely affected by the Kaliwa Dam project, effectively ejecting them from their ancestral lands in the provinces of Quezon and Rizal.
“The railroading of the Kaliwa Dam project by MWSS and NCIP continues to violate the Dumagat’s collective rights to land and self-determination. These agencies continue to disrespect and neglect the non-consent decision of the majority of the Dumagat people on the dam project,” KAMP stressed.
Water rights watchdog Water for the People Network (WPN) also condemned the railroading of the MOA signing for the mega-dam, noting that scientists have long established that the proposed Kaliwa Dam, which will displace whole indigenous communities and destroy large swathes of natural resources in the provinces of Rizal and Quezon, is “not necessary as water can be sourced through other existing or less destructive means.”
“Ang railroading ng pagpirma sa MOA ng Kaliwa Dam ay patunay na may sabwatan sa pagitan ng pamahalaan, mga pribadong negosyo, at Tsina para sa proyekto. Hindi pinakinggan ang panawagan ng mga magsasaka at katutubo na sisirain ng paggawa sa Kaliwa Dam ang kanilang kabuhayan,” said WPN Spokesperson Reginald Vallejos.