Signature drive wants Kaliwa Dam project revoked

Signature drive wants Kaliwa Dam project revoked

A “No to Kaliwa Dam” tarp posted outside the St. Mark and the Child Jesus Cathedral in Infanta, Quezon. CBCPNEWS

By Roy Lagarde

August 3, 2019

Manila, Philippines

A campaign has been rolled out to gather signatures of 10 million people urging the government to drop a controversial dam project in the mountains of the northern Philippines.

The Prelature of Infanta said it began gathering signatures a month ago, as the government started the construction of the P18.7 billion Kaliwa Dam project.

Bishop Bernardino Cortez is appealing for help in a last ditch effort to protect local communities and their environment.

“The struggle is far from over… and we are asking for your help,” Cortez said in an Aug. 3 letter to his brother bishops.

The dam is one of the pet projects of the Duterte administration financed by China, his main political and economic ally, through a bilateral loan agreement.

Located in Quezon province, the project is seen as long-term solution to the increasing water demand in Metro Manila.

Local officials and environmentalists have opposed the project over concerns it would ravage the biodiversity in the Sierra Madre mountain forests and flood several villages downstream.

In 2004, a flash flood claimed more than a thousands lives and destroyed over a million worth of properties in the province.

Anti-dam advocates also said it will displace thousands of people, most of whom are from the Dumagat tribe since it will be built on their ancestral domain.

“We thus call on President Duterte and all government leaders to revoke the Kaliwa Dam project,” read part of the prelature’s petition.

“We believe that this project will not address the problem but also make conditions worse for the Philippines,” it added.

In a pastoral letter released in July 2018, Bishop Cortez warned that the dam will only bring more problems than gains, especially to the villagers.

With the hefty budget for the project, he urged the government to instead look for alternative sources of water such as watershed rehabilitation and improving existing dams and water distribution facilities.

The statement was also supported by 55 prelates led by Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Philippine bishops’ conference.

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 “destroy” 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.