Bishops oppose P18 billion Quezon dam project

Bishops oppose P18 billion Quezon dam project

Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta. FILE PHOTO

By CBCP News

August 10, 2018

Manila, Philippines

Construction of a nearly P19 billion dam project that will (what) rainforest area and displace tribespeople was given the green light by the government.

The Kaliwa Dam project is among the 75 flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration that would cost P18.7 billion to build in Quezon province.

This caused major disappointment to church people, local residents and indigenous peoples in the area who have been lobbying against the project.

Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta dismissed project proponents’ claims of benefits, saying it will only bring more problems than gains especially to villagers.

“It will inundate the ancestral domain of the Dumagat-Remontados, uprooting them from the Sierra Madre where their ancestors lived for centuries,” Cortez said.

“Kaliwa dam to be constructed over the Infanta Fault will be a ‘sword hanging over the head’ of 100,000 people living downstream the Kaliwa River,” he said.

In 2004, a flash flood claimed more than a thousand lives and over a million worth of properties.

Environment permit

In a statement issued on July 26, the bishop questioned the lack of transparency of the process in approving the project.

He claimed that the government has kept the data on Kaliwa dam “secret” despite the much publicized Freedom of Information.

“This project which is connected with the Laiban dam has been in the pipeline for 30 years, yet until now it does not even have the necessary Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC),” said Cortez.

The statement was supported by more than 50 other prelates led by Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Among the church leaders who signed the statement were Archbishops Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Jose Palma of Cebu and Rolando Tria Tirona of Nueva Caceres, who also heads Caritas Philippines.

Alternatives

According to them, Angay and Ipo dams supply Metro Manila with 4,000 mld of water but a big percentage of this is lost due to leaks.

With the hefty budget for the project, they urged the government to instead look for alternative sources of water such as the rehabilitation of Pasig-Laguna River Basin which would only cost P13 billion.

The government, according to them, may also adopt the Singapore New Water technology which treats wastewater to become potable.

The bishops also called on the government to launch a massive education campaign to convince the 13 million Metro Manila residents to learn “water management”.

“This would reduce water consumption significantly. This could be bad news for business but best for the environment,” Cortez added.

“And most importantly, protect and expand our dwindling forests that serves as our largest watershed and these would refill our underground aquifers which are now over extracted.”

“We encourage all to ‘rethink how to use water’ in terms of the demand-side and consumption and protect our environment,” he also said.