President Rodrigo Duterte should step into the brewing Kaliwa Dam controversy before the government finds itself in deep water, so to speak.
Both Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System administrator Reynaldo Velasco and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III have declared that the P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam is a “done deal” and that no other proposal should be entertained in solving Metro Manila’s water deficit problem.
Beijing-run China Energy Engineering Corp. is set to build Kaliwa Dam in the municipalities of General Nakar and Infanta in the province of Quezon, backed by an official development assistance loan from China. China has committed to finance 85 percent of the dam’s project cost, with the balance to be funded by the Philippine government. The project aims to supply some 600 million liters of water per day to Metro Manila.
Velasco said the MWSS was about to construct the Kaliwa Dam after the project obtained the approval from the Nationnal Economic and Development Authority.
But Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo disagreed with the view of his Cabinet colleagues. “I think every proposal should be considered. The most beneficial, the most advantageous for the Filipinos should the the prime consideration,” he told media during a recent briefing at Malacañang.
Pressed about the issue of the Kaliwa Dam’s more expensive price tag and environmental issues hounding it, Panelo said he was willing to bring the issues to the attention of the President. “Personally, I feel if the advantages are so clear and the China proposal is onerous to the government and Filipino taxpayers, then we should revisit this deal,” he adds.
Panelo says the cost disparity with a Japanese proposal has prompted him to seek a review of the China deal. “Let’s do this, I will ask this particular Japanese entity to give us a copy of their proposal, and my office will look into it… and I will make a recommendation to the government.”
The Kaliwa Dam version of the Chinese government, which still lacks the environmental compliance certificate to begin construction, was initially planned as a public-private partnership endeavor in 2014, under the Aquino administration. But the Duterte administration changed the funding parameters of the dam to a hybrid PPP (Public-Private-Partnership), instead of an integrated PPP.
An integrated PPP involves one entity undertaking the construction, operation and maintenance of a project, while a hybrid PPP means the construction and O&M of a project is done by separate entities.
A Japanese company this week revived an offer it first presented to the Philippine government 10 years ago for a more feasible and cost-efficient alternative to Metro Manila’s looming potable water supply problem.
Osaka-based Global Utility Development Corp. Ltd. said it was still keen to build the Kaliwa Intake Weir project I Rizal province under a Build, Operate, Transfer scheme. The project calls for a seven-feet high dam with a 16-kilometer-long tunnel that has a diameter of 3.3 meters. The project also calls for the construction of a water treatment facility.
A weir, or low head dam, is a barrier across the horizontal width of a river that alters the flow characteristics of water and results in a change in the height of the river level. Water flows over the top of the weir crest before cascading down to a lower level. A dam, such as the Kaliwa Dam, meanwhile, is a barrier that stops or restricts the flow of water or underground streams.
GUDC chief executive officer and director Toshikazu Nomura said in a press briefing his company was still interested to push through with the Kaliwa Intake Weir project, which was first submitted as an unsolicited proposal back in 2009.
The proposal was in limbo until in 2017, when GUDC was asked to submit an updated proposal. But Nomura said the Philippine government gave them the cold shoulder, despite letters sent to the MWSS and the Office of the President.
GUDC’s proposal is 30 percent cheaper than those of other bidders, presents less environmental fallout and community resistance, and offers a shorter completion time. The MWSS, instead, opted for the P18.7-billion New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWSP), of which the smaller Kaliwa Dam is part and parcel.
The NCWSP and Kaliwa Dam have already met opposition from several non-government organizations (NGOs), church and community-based groups, as well as environmental advocates.
The envisioned dams, according to critics, will displace around 6,214 households and flood barangays in Tanay, Rizal and General Nakar, Quezon. Majority of the affected are the Dumagat and Remontado indigenous people. Agricultural and forest lands and wildlife habitats inside the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve, an environmentally critical area, will also be flooded.
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