Is it right to go Kaliwa? Dam project faces foes long before completion

The Kaliwa Dam Project, also known as the New Centennial Water Supply Project aims to serve as a new water source to address the increasing demand of 17.46 million residents or 3.49 million households by putting up another dam, reducing the dependence on the existing Angat Dam. 

With an estimated cost of P12.189 billion, the Kaliwa Dam Project started in 2019 and will be constructed until 2023. Designed as a climate-resilient dam, the project went through the study of the World Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). China Energy Engineering Corporation Limited (CEEC) got the contract with the local consultation of EDCOP-PRIMEX-SMEC. 

Towering at 60 meters, the dam will occupy parts of Infanta and General Nakar in the province of Quezon. The tunnel will run through the Sierra Madre mountain range, the part covered by Tanay Rizal. Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. will manage the treatment plants based in Antipolo and Teresa, both located in the province of Rizal. 

The project will have an impact on the communities and environment present in these areas. Considering the impact of the Kaliwa Dam Project, several groups and individuals have already expressed their disagreement with the project. 

Questionable from the very start?

In an 8-page audit observation memorandum dated June 10 of last year, the Commission of Audit questioned MWSS on its failure to conduct the proper bidding and vetting process before granting the project to CEEC. 

COA noted that MWSS shortlisted CEEC and the Consortium of Guangdong Foreign Construction in spite of not being qualified. MWSS requires candidates with 20 years of expertise and experience in design, engineering, and construction of complex dam projects like the Kaliwa Dam. 

The Consortium of Guangdong also failed to secure documents like business permit, Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB) license, Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) certificate, and a valid Single Largest Completed Contract (SLCC). 

Meanwhile, another bidder, Power China Ltd., intentionally offered 6.91% higher than the Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) despite the prior notice that higher offers would be automatically denied.

MWSS answered COA by saying that the project has the “semblance of competitive bidding…in reality, it is a negotiated contract from the inception of the bidding process.” The agency also defended that the project aligns with President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build, Build, Build campaign.

Impact on indigenous tribes

Senator Imee Marcos, who also chairs the Senate committee on cultural communities, accuses the government agencies of violating the law. Marcos said that the access road to the dam in General Nakar arose without consulting the indigenous tribes. 

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) built the road traversing the burial and sacred grounds of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe.

Now about 60% complete, the agencies failed to secure a certificate of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of the local tribes through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The STOP Kaliwa Dam Network, consisting of groups Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, Sukatan-LN, and SAGIBIN-LN, expressed the same sentiments during a recent press conference in Quezon City.

Violating the Constitution

In the House of Representatives, the Makabayan bloc accuses the government of entering into an onerous deal, stating that the over P12 billion loan agreement for the project violates the Constitution.

Bayan Muna Representative Isagani Carlos Zarate cited some illegal provisions of the contract like 1) Article 5.7 states that the “Philippines or any of its assets, unless prohibited by the laws and public policies, are not entitled to any right of immunity on the grounds of sovereign or any legal process; 2) Article 8.1, which states that the “Philippines irrevocably waives any immunity on grounds of sovereignty; 3) Article 8.4, “agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of China; 4) Article 8.5, which stipulates that the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center will be the arbiter in case of a dispute; and 5) Article 8.9, which states that the terms, conditions and standard fees of the loan agreement are confidential.

Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares slammed the confidentiality clause of the agreement. The Department of Finance (DOF) claims that the clause appears in the Philippine deals with other countries. Colmenares dared the DOF to provide evidence that these deals carry the same clause like that of the Kaliwa Dam loan. 

Although the Kaliwa Dam Project promises to bring significant benefits to many Filipinos, it’s undeniable that this massive endeavor also comes with several effects on the communities and environment occupied by it. Worsening the public perception toward it, the project is hounded with allegations of unfair practices and provisions that might make the loan deal a heavy burden on Filipinos in the long run. We just hope that the Kaliwa Dam Project’s advantages can significantly outweigh the disadvantages once it becomes complete.


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