Activist priest to DOF chief: Prove dam’s feasibility
An environmentalist priest on Thursday asked Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to show proof that the P18.7-billion Kaliwa Dam in Quezon province could help solve the water shortage in Metro Manila.
“If he is that sure, why is the Duterte administration hiding the crucial data of the Kaliwa Dam?” Fr. Pete Montallana, Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA) chair, said on Thursday.
“Why until now Mr. Dominguez does not have the courage to reveal the studies about the dam after years of talking if it is that important?”
Montallana was reacting to the official’s declaration that the construction of the China-funded dam in the northern Quezon section of the Sierra Madre would “absolutely” help address the water shortage in Metro Manila.
Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said the government was using a supposed water crisis in Metro Manila to push for the construction of the dam project to be funded by another “onerous” loan agreement with China.
In a statement, the Makabayan senatorial candidate said that instead of looking at the Kaliwa Dam project as the ultimate solution to the water shortage, the government must first solve the management problems besetting Manila Water.
“Maybe Dominguez should address first the mismanagement and greed of Manila Water and not use our people’s woes to pitch for another potentially onerous China project,” Colmenares said.
He said the project was to be built under a loan agreement with China Energy and China Eximbank, the same lenders of the “onerous” Chico river project loan agreement.
Montallana argued that the water shortage in the capital as a justification for the dam project did not hold water.
Civil society groups
Citing a study by civil society groups led by Freedom from Debt Coalition, he said: “Metro Manila’s water crisis has nothing to do with a deficit in water supply, and everything to do with wasteful water management practices.”
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has long been pushing for the construction of Kaliwa Dam as a major component of its New Centennial Water Source Project to address a projected water crisis in Metro Manila.
Kaliwa Dam has a discharge capacity of 600 million liters a day (MLD) and a 27.7-kilometer raw water conveyance tunnel with a design capacity of 2.4 MLD.
Environmental, religious and activist groups and concerned local government officials in northern Quezon have been waging a campaign against the project.
Montallana said the project threatened human lives and the home of indigenous peoples.
Bishop Bernardino Cortes, head of the Prelature of Infanta, also assailed the secrecy surrounding the dam project.
“The National Economic and Development Authority has kept the data on Kaliwa Dam secret with the word ‘confidential’ despite the much-publicized Freedom of Information Executive Order No. 2, series of 2016,” Cortes said in a pastoral letter. —WITH A REPORT FROM MELVIN GASCON
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