MANILA - Environment groups reiterated calls to stop the construction of Kaliwa Dam as the Philippines commemorated Save Sierra Madre Day on September 26.
"'Pag nasimulan po iyan at naitayo na, sa halip na grasya ang mangyayari, disgrasya ang mangyayari sa karamihang tao," Stop Kaliwa Dam Project Convenor and Save Sierra Madre Network Inc. Executive Director Conrad Vargas said on Tuesday.
(The construction of Kaliwa Dam will bring more harm than good to the people.)
Vargas maintained that the project has yet to secure all necessary permits, but reported that construction had already begun for an access road toward the planned site for the Kaliwa Dam. Some 10 to 12 kilometers of gravel road had already been constructed, while road widening had begun.
"'Yun ang aming kino-contest. Kasi doon sa mga dokumento, partikular sa mga na-picture-an na may groundbreaking, andoon ang lokal na opsiyales ng Infanta at General Nakar, pero ang sabi lang gagawa ng assessment at hindi magbubutas ng kalsada," Vargas said.
(That is what we are contesting. Documents and photos of a groundbreaking event showed that local officials of Infanta and General Nakar, Quezon were present, but the event was intended to be an assessment.)
The proposed Kaliwa Dam construction area encompasses the jurisdictions of three municipalities: Tanay in Rizal, and Infanta and General Nakar in Quezon Province. Among the permits that the project needs to secure will come from these local governments, as well as a resolution and permit from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).
The project site also falls within the Kaliwa watershed forest reserve, designated a natural wildlife park sanctuary and animal refuge, and thus is a protected area.
"Kami po ay wala pang napagkakaisahan at na-i-issue na PAMB resolution o permit para pahintulutan na ang pagpapatayo ng Kaliwa Dam. Kaya nga malaking bahagi ng pagtutol natin noong nakaraang panahon ay bakit sinimulan ang pagpapatayo ng access road na wala pang permit?Napakarami pong violations na nangyari at submitted na sa DENR para magkaroon ng resolution," Vargas explained.
(The PAMB has not yet issued a resolution or a permit. Which is why we contest the construction of the access road. There are so many violations, which have already been submitted to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to get a resolution.)
The access road construction has been suspended, Vargas reported.
The Kaliwa Dam site also enroaches ancestral domain. Despite claims that the Dumagat Remontado residing in the area were consulted, signatures gathered granting permission for the construction are presently being contested.
Indigenous communities living upstream on ground at an approximate elevation of 50 meters will be submerged when the Kaliwa Dam is created, projected to rise 60 meters in height.
Communities living downstream on the other hand will have their natural water supply from the Kaliwa and Kanan rivers cut off. During the rainy season, these downstream communities will be subject to a deluge when the dam releases water, Vargas said.
"Andyan ang regular na pagdaloy ng tubig dahil sa ulan. Pero dahil sa tinatawag na climate change, dahil sa [lakas] ng ulan pwedeng ang isang buwan ng tubig ay sa isang oras ibabagsak, tapos magpapakawala pa sila, saan pa po kami pupulutin?" Vargas added.
(The rain might bring forth some flow to the river, but because of climate change, rainfall might bring 3 month's worth of rain within an hour, and if the dam will release water to prevent overflow, where will we go?)
Vargas reminded that the bilateral loan taken by the Philippine government to fund the proposed dam will be passed on to the Filipino people, on top of the country's already bloated debt.
"Lahat ng Pilipino tayo ang magbabayad niyan, kasama 'yan sa loan ng ating bansa. Kahit ang mga taga-Mindanao na di nakakakinabang sa tubig ng dam ay kasamang magbabayad," he said.
(We will all pay for that loant hrough our taxes. Even Filipinos in Mindanao who will not be serviced by the Kalwia Dam will have to pay for it.)
The Save Sierra Madre Network Inc., its partner organizations, and the municipalities of Tanay, Infanta, and General Nakar carry out regular activities to increase awareness and promote the protection and regeneration of the Sierra Madre.