Quezon Governor Danilo Suarez has stood firm on his opposition to the Kaliwa Dam, a P12-billion joint venture project of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and China Energy Engineering Corporation.
Suarez boldly told members of Save Sierra Madre network, which is also opposing the construction of Kaliwa Dam in the town of Infanta, that he will prevent the project from pushing through as long as he is the province’s chief executive.
The governor even went further with a warning to file an appropriate case if proponents insist on pushing the project.
“I’m with you, I don’t like Kaliwa dam either. If you would continue Kaliwa Dam, I’d see you in court,” said Suarez.
Residents of Real, Infanta and General Nakar towns, collectively known as REINA, and indigenous peoples groups have opposed the construction of the dam, citing the tragic flash flood and mudslides that devastated their areas on November 29, 2004, killing more than a thousand people.
Suarez met with groups opposed to the Kaliwa Dam project in Infanta when he conducted relief operations after the onslaught of typhoon "Ulysses" that hit the Polillo Island group and the REINA area.
“Why are we going to borrow money, and let the government ultimately pay the lender, when there are private sectors who can do the job without harming the government?” Suarez stressed.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Quezon, headed by Vice Governor Samuel Nantes, passed a resolution on Nov. 27 giving Suarez the authority to take necessary steps, on behalf of the provincial government, to stop the Kaliwa Dam project.
The resolution was approved by 11 of the 13 members of the provincial board presided by Nantes.
Catholic church leaders in the province also renewed their opposition to the multibillion-peso mega-dam project, saying the fight was a matter of survival of the people.
Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta said the Kaliwa Dam project would pose risks to lowland agricultural and fishing communities with a history of flash flooding.
The prelature, which covers the northern part of Quezon and the Aurora province, lies along the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and on the east of the vast Pacific Ocean. It is also home to thousands of Dumagats, an indigenous community in the highlands of Infanta.
“So you will understand that, by geography, our very survival depends on the care of our mountains, forests, rivers, protection of mangroves and seashores. We hope and pray that our people in this ‘Jubilee for the Earth’ will develop a new mindset and a paradigm shift in our care and use of the common home,” he said.
As this developed, Cortez prodded the government to look for alternative sources of water, such as watershed rehabilitation and improve existing dams and water facilities. With Benjie Antioquia