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Kaliwa Dam: A Story of the Duterte Administration's Betrayal

Updated on April 6, 2019
Angelo Samonte profile image

Affected by the artificial water crisis, Angelo looked deeper as to what caused it. What he found boggled his entire reality

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The Kaliwa Dam or the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam (NCWSP) is a project proposed since the Marcos administration, but failed to be structured due to problems concerning the displacement of indigenous people and its detrimental effects to the country's biodiversity.. It has been shed light to the public again when previous president Benigno Aquino III mentioned it in his 5th State of the Nation Address as part of its drought prevention efforts. His administration failed to build this and now it has been passed under the Duterte administration. The Duterte administration however is now being met with backlash due to the same reasons the Marcos administration faced and the involvement of Chinese contractors. Why?

The "Artificial" Water Shortage of the East Zone

Living here in my city the previous month was difficult as a water outage suddenly plagued Mandaluyong. On March 8, 2019, I, along with millions of residents in the East Zone of the country would be surprised by a water outage that would affect us up until to this day. This was considerably shocking as none of the residents were prepared for a water shortage this severe and many wondered what could be the root of all of these.

According to Araja (2019, March 25) PAG-ASA warned Maynilad and Manila Water as early as February that the country would experience a short drought as soon as the dry season enters. This means that the companies in charge with the waterworks of the entire Metro had an entire month to prepare for the incoming drought, so it’s extremely unlikely that they weren’t prepared for the worst case scenario. Another article created by Flores (2019, March 23) backs this up claiming that it was not until the 22nd of March did PAGASA announced that the dry season is here. So, there’s really no liable reason for this crisis.

An article created by Federez (2019, March 20) said that MWSS assures no repeat of metro-wide water interruption. If the water outage was truly caused by a drought, how can they vow that it won't happen again?

As stated by Rivas (2019, March 17) in his article, Manila Water claims that the water outage is caused by the lack of water in La Mesa Dam, however a well-reputed retired MWSS officer named Angel Salazar wondered why Manila Water was tampering with their emergency water supply. As written by Lara (2019, March 15), Salazar explained that Manila Water should be using the water from Angat Dam, like how its counterpart Maynilad is doing, and to open the bypass as well. There is no reason why Manila Water should be using the water from the La Mesa Dam according to Salazar and the closing of the bypass is the root of this crisis. All of these debacles are enough reason for one to be suspicious of the whole crisis. Renowned officials, scientists, and academics are all claiming there is no legitimate reason for the East Zone’s water outage.

The suspicion got even worse when Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III claimed that the water crisis could have been averted have the Kaliwa Dam was created early. He further explained in an article created by Rivas (2019, March 13) that MWSS should rush the contractors in creating the said dam. This statement heightened people’s fears and confirmed their doubts that the government created all of this all along to make people support the creation of the Kaliwa Dam. And people cannot support this because it would introduce Chinese investors to the energy market in the country and Chinese contractors to build this dam.

Do you think that the government caused this?

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The Involvement of Chinese Investors

So why are people so keen in stopping the production of the Kaliwa Dam? That is because of the involvement of Chinese investors in the Kaliwa Dam. According to Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System the production of the Kaliwa Dam would cost a staggering PHP 18.74 billion to build. Of course, the Philippine government wouldn't be able to pay for the production of the dam themselves, that's why they opted for foreign loans to build the production of the dam. It is then later revealed that the government chose Chinese terms rather than the more favorable Japanese terms for the creation of the dam. An article created by Rivas (2019, March 27) revealed if the country failed to pay China they waive any immunity on the grounds of sovereignty.

Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino defended the deal with China, according to an article by Ranada (2019, March 20) citing that the 2% interest rate given by China is already a lower rate than those given by multilateral development banks. Furthermore, an article created by Navallo (2019, March 28) says Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned that this agreement offers patrimonial assets as collateral, which he said could mean Beijing is going after gas in the Reed Bank. This has been met with backlash with critics claiming that this could eventually lead Philippines at the foot of China's mercy especially with their infamous 'debt-trapping'. They also pointed out that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad himself warned the Philippines doing deals with China.

Another point to look at is that a Japanese-based firm Global Utility Development Corporation (GUDC) gave their own proposal back in September 2017, but it wasn't accepted due to "someone" pressuring MWSS, according to Bonquin (2019, March 25). This deal is much safer, has less conditions, less environmental impact, and has lower interest rates than China's offers, so why would the administration push for China's involvement in this project?

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The Effects to Sierra Madre's Biodiversity

Another issue needs to be addressed before the creation of the Kaliwa Dam goes through. How would the government protect the biodiversity of the Sierra Madre? Sierra Madre has the largest span of rainforest in the country. It is a haven for endemic and rare species in the country, and is home to endangered flora and fauna such as Narra, Almaciga, Kamagong, Philippine Eagle, Isabela Oriole, Sea Turtle, Philippine Crocodile, and Giant Monitor Lizard. It is also a habitat to 15 species of amphibians, 334 bird species, 1,476 fish species, 963 invertebrate species, 81 mammal species, 50 plant species, and 60 reptile species, according to Philippine Daily Inquirer (2018, November 23). The Kaliwa Watershed alone houses 172 plant or flora species. This now begs the question, how would the government protect these species? A China backed dam is stated to ruin the biodiversity of the region.

Creating the Kaliwa Dam in the region of Sierra Madre will only ruin its biodiversity, at least the one supported by China. Many claim that the one backed by Japan will have less environmental impacts to the region, but do we even want any catastrophic impact to it? At this point, I believe it is better to leave the region untouched and just focus on existing dams or at least look out new venues for new dams that won't damage the country's flora and fauna.

The Displacement of Indigenous People

The Kaliwa Dam wouldn't only harm the flora and fauna thriving in the region, but also thousands of people belonging in the tribes of the Dumagats and Remontados. The Dumagats-Remontados indigenous people own parts of the land where the Kaliwa Dam is said to be created. They own it under a Certificate of Ancestral Domian Title, which the Dumagats had to work for 8 long years, according to an article by unbound (2013, February 4).

This isn't a new concern though, for years, the Dumagats and Remontados have rallied against the creation of the Kaliwa Dam. This issue is prevalent even during the Marcos era-a reason why the Kaliwa Dam wasn't pushed through in this era. If the Duterte administration do push for the creation of this dam, it will prove his critics right, and he would break one of his promises which is to cater for the Filipino people.

Final Thoughts

As for my opinion, the Kaliwa Dam has more cons than it has pros. Its creation could help the country to curb the prophesied water shortage in the 2020s, but that would mean ignoring all of these major concerns.

The administration should follow through its promise when we elected them and that is, to think of the Filipino people and the country first. Should they push through with this, it's rational to call this act as betrayal against the Filipino people.

What concerns you more?

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