Duterte push for Kaliwa Dam hit
A party-list group on Wednesday sounded the alarm over President Rodrigo Duterte’s insistence on proceeding with the controversial Kaliwa Dam project, warning that the project would be a “disaster” for the country.
Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed dismay over the President’s statement that the Kaliwa Dam project should push through despite a number of supposed “badges of irregularity.”
“President Duterte’s statement is alarming and tramples on the separation of powers of the branches of government. The loan agreements for the Kaliwa Dam and its twin deal Chico River Pump Irrigation Project are onerous and highly favors China,” he said.
“(These two loan agreements) are disasters for the Philippines,” he added.
He was referring to the agreements covering the P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam, or the New Centennial Water Source Project in General Nakar town in Quezon province, and the P3.2-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Kalinga province.
Zarate issued the statement after Mr. Duterte warned courts not to issue orders stopping the Kaliwa and Wawa dam projects, and ignore these if already issued.
The President described these projects as “the last resort” supposedly to solve the water supply woes in Metro Manila.“I’m warning the judges that they be sparing about issuing (temporary restraining orders or TROs). Otherwise, I will publicly announce that, ‘Do not follow. You follow the program of government,’” he added.
Under the 1987 Constitution, courts are under the judiciary, a coequal branch with the executive department.
Zarate wondered why Mr. Duterte was bent on pushing the Kaliwa and Wawa dam projects, which are slated to be constructed under loan agreements with China.
“Clearly, from the beginning, the project was really skewed to favor the Chinese,” he said.“Worse, these loans may just be two of the many secret loan agreements between the Philippines and China which could run in the billions,” Zarate added.
He said several irregularities attended and unresolved questions still hounded the “anomalous” multibillion project.
“In the first place, why would the contract with China be approved even before the members of the (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System) board have seen, scrutinized and voted on it?” he asked.Zarate, a human rights lawyer, also questioned the provision in the contract that any dispute or default in payments must be decided by a tribunal in China, using China’s laws.
“The agreement first imposes an admission on the part of the Philippines that ‘the agreement does not violate any Philippine law or rules,’ practically preempting our country’s right to challenge the legality or constitutionality of the agreement,” he said.
At a losing end
The agreement also supposedly provides that any dispute, such as a delay or default in payment, shall be resolved by the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, and shall be governed by the laws of China.The agreement also imposes that the venue shall be in Beijing, according to Zarate.
“The Philippines is already at a losing end before the start of the loan, even if it was China that incurred a delay or a breach of contract,” he said.
The loan agreement also bars the Philippines from doing any act which, in the opinion of China, will materially affect the Philippines’ performance of its obligations, Zarate said.
“This could mean any act since it is solely interpreted under China’s opinion,” he said.
China can “easily” sue the Philippines in their own tribunal, while the latter cannot even question the agreement in its own courts, similar to the arbitration case won by water concessionaire Maynilad Water Services, Zarate said.
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