Kaliwa Dam deal ‘suspiciously disadvantageous’ to PH
Despite being floated as the solution to Metro Manila’s water woes, the agreement for the construction of Kaliwa Dam is “suspiciously disadvantageous” to the Filipino people, an economic research think tank said on Monday.
The official development assistance (ODA) granted by China for the dam’s construction was not out of charity to the Philippines, but a move to advance the Asian superpower’s foreign policy and self-interest, said Sonny Africa, executive director of Ibon Foundation, at a press briefing in Quezon City.
“China is not just any lender. It is aggressive in asserting its global agenda even at the expense of human rights, environmental protection and feeding corruption in debtor governments,” Africa added.
Possible debt trap
Apart from being a possible debt trap, Africa said the ODA made it too easy for China to declare the loan in default and declare “all the principal of and accrued interest … immediately due and payable.”
According to the agreement released by the Department of Finance, the loan is governed by Chinese laws and any disputes will be settled in the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.
Africa said that under the agreement, the Philippines “waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereignty” and may give up natural and strategic resources to China in case it defaulted on the loan.
The construction of the dam also comes at the price of the lives, lands and livelihood of indigenous peoples, according to members of the Dumagat tribe.
Inundate ancestral lands
More than 20,000 Dumagat people living along the Kaliwa riverbanks in Quezon and Rizal provinces would be displaced by the proposed dam, said Wilma Quierrez, secretary general of Dumagat Sierra Madre.
Quierrez said the dam would inundate their ancestral lands in at least 18 villages.
“Our lives and livelihood are entwined with nature,” she said at a press briefing in Quezon City on Monday. “This project spells the death of our ancestral lands.”
The indigenous peoples whose ancestral lands would be affected by the dam were not consulted about the project, she said.
Lodema Doroteo, the first Dumagat schoolteacher, said their welfare should not be pitted against that of Metro Manila’s residents.
“We are not against progress,” she said. “But if the Kaliwa Dam is constructed, where do we go? Access to water should be given equitably.”