WHILE acknowledging the need for additional water sources, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said the rush to construct the Kaliwa Dam project across several provinces including Rizal should not brush aside laws and the rights of communities that will be affected.
The vice-presidential candidate questioned the signing of the memorandum of agreement for the P12.2-billion Chinese-funded deal despite staunch opposition from the Dumagat-Remontado tribe occupying portions of the project site.
“Kailangan tiyakin na patas ang kontrata at hindi minadali para sa mga Chinese investor. Baka sa huli, mala-Pharmally ang kalabasan nito kung saan pinagkakitaan lang ang pondo ng bayan,” Pangilinan said, referring to overpriced pandemic medical supplies provided by the firm chosen by the Department of Budget and Management.
At stake in the dam project is not only the life and livelihood of the indigenous communities, but the environment and safety of communities living nearby.
“Kapag sinimulan na ang proyekto, hindi na maibabalik anuman ang masisira sa kapaligiran. The damage will be irreversible,” Pangilinan said.
The vice-presidential bet also reminded that the dam project will be under a loan agreement to be paid by every Filipino and with interest.
“Dapat ding busisiing maigi ang kontrata ng Chinese company na ito para malaman kung patas ang mga probisyon at hindi lugi ang mga Pilipino. Ika nga, the devil is in the details,” he said.
The 60-meter-high reservoir of the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project will cover 291 hectares of the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve and the adjoining ancestral domains of the Dumagat-Remontado communities in General Nakar, Quezon and Tanay, Rizal.
A 28-kilometer-long conveyance tunnel will be built from the dam site in Barangay Magsaysay in Infanta, Quezon through several barangays in Tanay, Baras, Morong and Teresa towns in Rizal.
Government data showed that 1,465 households in three villages in Rizal and Quezon will be affected by the China-backed dam project. Of the figure, 1,041 “will be at risk of flooding and other effects of possible dam failure or dam break.”
An earlier report said the MOA for the project was signed despite opposition by the indigenous communities.
Pangilinan said that with many controversies hounding its construction, a thorough and transparent review of the agreement is paramount.