"I fervently hope the national government rethinks its stand."
The pandemic has generally and indisputably put everyone in various difficult situations even up to present. It is quite disappointing that there are a few who would take advantage of this sticky situation and discreetly continue their completely uncalled-for efforts to push their own interests.
It has come to my attention that last week, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, together with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, conducted a series of negotiation meetings with the indigenous peoples living near the Kaliwa Dam. The purpose of the said meeting was allegedly to seek validation of the draft Memorandum of Agreement for the construction of the Kaliwa Dam project.
The Provincial Government of Quezon has been expressly firm and adamant in opposing the implementation of the Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon and Rizal. Time and again, I have been calling for the scrapping of such project in lieu of the Kanan Dam project which provides greater supply of water at a lesser cost to the government. Other public officials have also been advocating against the Kaliwa Dam due to the undue disadvantages and problematic provisions in its contract.
Let me emphasize: Local private firms are willing to do similar water projects at a significantly lower cost to the government. As opposed to this China-funded project, which even includes questionable stipulations and unlawful nondisclosure clauses, it is only logical that we employ the least onerous and least prejudicial means to build and augment our water supply.
At the risk of repetition, I am again calling for the national government to reconsider this project and look into the viability and advantages of the Kanan Dam project or the Sumag River Diversion project, instead. While understandably, we need to prevent another water crisis as what we experienced in the 1990s, the MWSS and the national government need to carefully study other available options to avoid the damaging long-term effects in both fiscal and environmental aspects, and still without compromising the urgency.
In the past Congress, we have conducted several meetings in the Minority trying to understand the situation of the Kaliwa and Kanan Dam projects. It turned out that local firms are as capable of constructing such infrastructure projects at a lesser expense. I have said this many times in this column. What pains me now is that we are in the middle of a pandemic. In fighting this COVID-19, I realized that perhaps it is time to re-think our priorities and the impact of our actions in the long run. I am afraid that soon, when this pandemic is over, we might encounter another global crisis which may be climate change. It is not a remote possibility given the drastic and extreme weather changes in many parts of the globe. Hence, with the Kaliwa Dam project, are we providing the best and most sustainable option environmentally? Moreover, are we prepared for the fiscal impact of these foreign loans post-COVID?
We still have time. I fervently hope the national government rethinks its stand.