Robredo: Gov’t should have tapped PPP deals to build dam
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo has questioned the government’s decision to build a new dam funded by Chinese loans instead of a public-private partnership (PPP) project which she said would cost less.
Robredo noted that a Japanese company hasd offered to build and operate a dam in 2014, which would have ensured efficient water services for Metro Manila consumers.
“Naantala ito kasi pinalitan. Pinalitan ng ODA (Official Development Assistance), hindi natin alam kung bakit papalitan (This project was delayed because it was replaced by ODA. We didn’t know the reason),” she said in a radio program on Sunday.
Robredo said the government will pay for the loan, but it will not spend anything if the project is built through PPP.
“Ngayon, uutang tayo 85 percent, parang ang total project cost P18 billion (We are going to obtain a loan to cover 85 percent of the project cost..and the total project cost is P18 billion)?” she asked.
The Vice President said she does not understand why the government would opt to be burdened by high loans and interest rates when it can spend less.
“Ang 85 percent, utang natin sa China, 15 percent tayo iyong gagastos. So, hindi ko talaga alam kung bakit mas gugustuhin nating umutang kaysa wala tayong gagastusin,” she added.
(Eighty-five percent of the project cost will be funded through loans. The government will also cover the remaining 15 percent. So I do not understand why we are willing to incur debts.)
Government officials including Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the water supply shortage, which has caused service interruptions for Manila Water customers, can be solved by speeding up the construction of the Kaliwa Dam.
Manila Water officials have attributed the service interruptions to decreasing water levels at the La Mesa Dam and warned that the water situation may only normalize around May or August in some areas.
The P18.7-billion dam project is part of the deals signed by China and the Philippines during Chinese President Xi Jingping’s state visit here last November 2018.
However, critics of the administration have demanded transparency in the government’s deals with China as they claim the water shortage has been used to justify the mysterious projects done through loan agreements.
Aside from the loan issue, Robredo also expressed concern over impending projects that may affect indigenous people residing near the construction site.
“Noong Huwebes, galing ako sa General Nakar, Infanta, at saka Real, Quezon […] Nandoon ako at iyong pinaabot sa akin ng mga tao iyong pagtutol nila sa paggawa ng dam,” Robredo said.
(Last Thursday, I was in General Nakar, Infanta, and Real in Quezon. The people there asked me to relay their opposition to the dam project.)
“May basehan dahil maraming mga communities ang malulubog dahil dito. Pangalawa, talagang ito ancestral domain noong mga Dumagat tribe. Parang ang tawag sa kanila Dumagat Remontados […] Talagang mawawalan sila ng lugar,” she explained.
(Their opposition has a basis because many communities will be affected. Second, this is the ancestral domain of the Dumagat tribe. They are called Dumagat Remontados. They will lose their land.)
The Vice President also touched on talks that the proposed dam would sit on a fault line, and the people are afraid of the danger posed by earthquakes. She said there were suggestions floated in the past by bishops and priests on possible alternatives to building a dam that can be explored.
“Halimbawa, i-rehabilitate iyong mga existing na dam. Ayusin iyong ibang sources ng tubig, linisin iyong mga pipes, i-seal iyong mga butas. Iyong filtration ng Laguna lake, parang ang tagal nang nakabinbin iyon. Ang tanong noong mga tao doon, at saka noong mga environment groups, bakit ipipilit iyong ganitong kalaking project kung mayroon namang ibang sources of water?” she added.
(For example, rehabilitate existing dams. Fix water sources; clean and seal pipes. The filtration at Laguna Lake has been delayed for a long time. Why insist on building this big dam project when the government can tap other water sources?) /ee
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.