Kaliwa Dam: A Debt- Death Sentence For The Future Generations

The proposed Kaliwa Dam Project is simply the Laiban Dam Project “re-packaged” due to strong opposition to the said project. MWSS now intends to construct first the Kaliwa and then later the Laiban dam to deliver 2400 MLD (megaliters per day) of water at the cost of P66 billion.

The World Bank, world’s largest financier of dams, made an appraisal of the Kaliwa River Basin in 1979. The diversion tunnel was completed in 1984 but after the deposition of Marcos Laiban Dam project was deferred in 1989 only to be picked up in 1998 by President Joseph Estrada. Because of the protest march of the Dumagats drawing people’s support from the environmentalists and the Church, it was shelved again by President Gloria Arroyo in 2009.

Impending water crisis is the justification of the MWSS for these dams but Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) led by Freedom from Debt Coalition argue that: “Metro Manila’s “water crisis” has nothing to do with a deficit in water supply, and everything to do with wasteful water management practices”.

If a person needs 50 liters of water per day according to World Health Organization, then the 13 million people in Metro Manila would need 650 MLD. But even if one doubles that supply, 1300 MLD is even less than one third of the 4000 MLD of water that MWSS supplies to its the concessioners.

The problem is with the 2000 MLD non-revenue water, unpaid water lost in leaks and other causes. CSOs insist on the recovery of non-revenue water.

For 30 years MWSS has been proposing the damning of the Kaliwa River which is within the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuary (Presidential Proclamation 1636), but until now it has no Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) as required by PD 1151, PD 1586 and Sec. 12 of RA 7586 (NIPAS Act ).

Nor does it have the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the Dumagats as required by R.A. 8371 (IPRA).

The project also violates the right to a balanced and healthy ecology of Sec. 16 of the 1987 Constitution and Sec. 14 of NIPAS Act requiring a law for any exploitation of energy resources in protected areas.

MWSS is heartless to the poor Dumagats who have not been paid of their environmental fee of P20 million for the Umiray-Angat-Transbasin Project. That was due them 20 years ago! It is an unconscionable   situation while the water concessionaires continue to earn millions.

Dr. Steve Godilano, an environmental scientist, noted that MWSS did not consider the wealth valuation (economic benefits received now): for Upper Marikina River Basin it is  P18 Billion per year while it is P55 billion per year for the Agos River Watershed.

While MWSS denies the danger of earthquake for the project yet its plan admits the need for a higher factor of safety. What would happen   when the Big One hits Manila? The 1880 intensity X earthquake in Manila destroyed the churches both in Manila and in Infanta.

The World Commission on Dams created by World Bank in 1997 concluded that large dams showed a “marked tendency” toward cost overruns; environmental impacts “led to irreversible loss of species and ecosystems”; dam constructions “led to the impoverishment and suffering of millions.” The same study debunked the belief that dams provide “clean” energy because these emit greenhouse gases.

Climate change is now with us and a month’s rain can now fall in a few hours. The flash flood in 2004 has traumatized the residents   in Real, Infanta and General Nakar.

Instead of constructing big dams, alternatives are now being considered all over the world. Dr. Godilano pushes 1)   for the rehabilitation of the   Pasig-Laguna River Basin which would cost only P13 Billion. He strongly suggests 2) the Singapore New Water which   treats wastewater to become potable. CSOs have been proposing 3) the recovery of the “non-revenue water” amounting to 2000 MLD (water lost in leaks etc) 4) building reservoirs to collect rain water and 5) conducting massive campaign to inculcate the habit for water conservation.  6) The protection and expansion of our dwindling   forests is an urgent priority.

Despite NEDAs mission statement: “Kami ay walang ikukubli sa aming gagawin” and despite the Executive Order 2 on FOI, NEDA has not disclosed the documents of the Kaliwa dam project.

Nonetheless the “golden age of infrastructure” of Sec. Carlos Dominguez still included the Kaliwa dam . With Executive Order 27 will the departments simply railroad the   ECC and FPIC and manipulate the processes mandated by law?

Dams rake millions in profits and condemn countries to perpetual debt-burden. It is indeed scary to be transparent for it would reveal the true motive for rushing the Kaliwa dam to solve the so-called water crisis.

Pope Francis warns that: “Caring for the ecosystems demands farsightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation.” (Laudato Si #36)

  • Pete Montallana is the Chairperson of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance Inc and the Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples’ Apostolate of the Diocese of Infanta.

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