Next Pharmally? Palace says Filipino interests 'prioritized' in Kaliwa Dam deals

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2022 07:02 PM | Updated as of Apr 06 2022 07:14 PM

The Kaliwa river ABS-CBN News
The Kaliwa river forms part of the larger Agos river which winds through the Sierra Madre mountains of the Rizal and Quezon provinces. This river will be the site of the Kaliwa dam expected to provide 600 million liters of water per day to Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Taken Feb. 6, 2016. Kara Santos, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Malacañang on Wednesday maintained that indigenous peoples (IP) were consulted on the China-funded Kaliwa Dam, despite criticisms that it was supposedly rushed and fears that it could mirror the controversial Pharmally deals. 

Acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar said the transactions for the P12.2 billion reservoir project upheld national interests, and voices of the Filipino communities and localities involved. 

"We assure that the Kaliwa Dam project undergoes due process noting that all stakeholders, including the indigenous people, and the concerned local government units are involved in the negotiations," Andanar said in a press briefing. 

"The Duterte administration prioritizes national interests and the gains of the Filipino people from this infrastructure," he added.

Andanar's statement came after vice-presidential aspirant and Senator Kiko Pangilinan this week questioned the memorandum of agreement recently signed among agencies for the project's construction, saying that the deal should take into consideration the rights of indigenous people and communities nearby. 

An advocacy group had said the week-long talks for the construction only involved select people

"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," the lawmaker said.

(We should make sure that the contract is fair and not railroaded for Chinese investors. Maybe in the end, this would become another Pharmally using the public's money.)

But the Palace spokesperson said government would make sure that no one would benefit entirely from this except the people. 

"Sisiguraduhin natin na ang makikinabang mula sa proyektong ito ay walang sinuman kundi ang taumbayan lamang," said Andanar.

(We will make sure that the only people to benefit from this project are the Filipinos.)

Left-leaning groups have questioned the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon as it would displace thousands of indigenous people.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in 2019, promised the public that the government would pay and relocate individuals who would be displaced by the project.

Local officials and residents of Infanta have opposed the dam's construction over concerns it would flood several villages and displace residents. 

Officials earlier said the proposed 60 meter-high reservoir would solve water shortage in the capital region and nearby areas with its promise of supplying around 600 million liters of water daily.

China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC) will lead the dam's construction through the country's official development assistance from China. 

Video from PTV