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Why gov’t should cancel Kaliwa Dam project

09:01 AM April 22, 2019

We, individuals and organizations under the STOP Kaliwa Dam (Sectors Opposed to the Kaliwa Dam), are gravely concerned with the government’s attempt to use the “water crisis” in Metro Manila to aggressively push the Kaliwa Dam Project. We reject the project on the following grounds:

1. It violates legal processes.

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The project has failed to secure free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from the Dumagat/Remontado as required by Republic Act No. 8173 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

Indigenous peoples (IP) leaders in the area have questioned the FPIC process undertaken by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples because they were not provided copies of relevant documents, from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System as the project proponent, which are essential in evaluating the project and making informed decisions.

The Environmental Management Bureau has not issued an environmental compliance certificate, which is required of any project that poses a potential environmental risk or impact.

2. It will destroy the area’s rich biodiversity.

The dam will be constructed within a forest reserve declared under Proclamation No. 573 on June 22, 1968. Under Presidential Proclamation No. 1636 issued on April 18, 1977, a portion of the watershed was also declared a national park and wildlife sanctuary.

The forests and coastline of PP 1636 are a key habitat to 15 species of amphibians, 334 bird species, 1,476 fish species, 963 invertebrate species, 81 mammal species, 50 plant species and 60 reptile species. Building a megadam in the area will cause irreparable damage to the surrounding ecosystem and devastate animal and plant life.

3. It will contribute to the climate crisis.

Dam reservoirs are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, most notably methane, which is up to 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing global warming. Large dams emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases during construction.

4. It will come at an enormous social cost.

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The ancestral domains of the Dumagat/Remontado include areas within the Kaliwa River Basin where the dam will be constructed. Sacred sites as well as burial grounds will be submerged by its reservoir.

Apart from the IP sites, an estimated 424 households will be affected based on a feasibility study. The dam will impact the areas further downstream, most notably the municipality of Infanta, which will lose the benefit of sediment-carrying river flows.

5. It puts people’s lives at risk.

Kaliwa Dam will be constructed within the zone of two active tectonic plates represented by the Philippine Fault Zone and the Valley Fault System.

Many large-scale earthquakes were recorded in the past in this area, and the relative movement of 6 centimeters was observed in 1991-1993 along the Philippine fault line.

The Philippine fault zone has a potential to cause very high seismic activity, as what was recorded in the earthquake of July 18, 1880, when the old churches of Infanta, Mauban (both in Quezon province) and Manila Cathedral were devastated.

6. It will add to debt and tie us to an onerous loan we do not need.

The official development assistance loan from China, through the
Export-Import Bank of China, will add to the country’s ballooning debt, which is expected to hit an all-time high of P8 trillion this year.

More than this, it binds the country to an onerous agreement that encroaches on our sovereignty and opens up assets and natural resources to potential seizure by China.

Taken together, these aforementioned reasons are more than enough to call into serious question the wisdom of pushing through with the construction of Kaliwa Dam.

FR. PETE MONTALLANA, Head, Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance

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TAGS: Inquirer letters, Kaliwa Dam, Pete Montallana
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