Indigenous peoples and pro-environment groups called on proponents of the Kaliwa Dam Project to stop any operation related to the project “until everything is approved and settled.”
Rei Paulin, national coordinator of Katribu Philippines, said the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System should not proceed with any construction until all Dumagat communities agree to it.
During the general assembly of the group Tunay na Alyansa ng Bayan Alay sa Katutubo on Sunday, Paulin said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples is already set to issue a Certification Precondition for the project despite opposition from indigenous communities.
The Certification Precondition is a document issued by the NCIP that a development project “does not overlap with any ancestral domain area of any indigenous cultural community or indigenous peoples, or if the site is found to be within an ancestral domain area.”
The Kaliwa Dam Project is an integrated dam system involving the construction of a dam on the Kaliwa River in Rizal province, and a smaller dam downstream in Quezon province.
The project site falls within two adjoining Dumagat ancestral domains and will reportedly displace at least 15,000 tribal people.
The project got its funding from a US$248 million loan from China and is one of 75 flagship infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the government.
In a press briefing on September 2, Dumagat leader Wiling Rutaquio said the project proponents “did not respect our rights” from the very beginning of the process.
Rutaquio said three directly affected communities – Baykuran, Makid-ata, and Yokyok – “do not agree” with the project.
“Before discussing the project decision, first resolve our issues in the community. It shouldn’t be only the elite who talk to each other,” he added.
The STOP Kaliwa Dam Network lambasted the MWSS for commencing the construction of an access road for the dam project “without the necessary permits.”
“It is unfortunate that the proposed Kaliwa Dam Project continues to forcefully carry on its construction despite the many unresolved destructive impacts,” said Environmental scientist Ruben Guieb.
Ian Rivera of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said the dam project “will not only affect communities in the area and its biodiversity” but it will also worsen flooding in large parts of Luzon.
“The government takes pride in its reforestation programs as part of its climate change mitigation efforts. Still, the same government allows environmentally destructive projects like the Kaliwa Dam,” he said.
In 2018, at least 51 Catholic bishops signed a pastoral letter issued by Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta opposing the dam project.
The letter called on the government to look for alternative water sources that would address the water supply problem affecting the capital Manila.