THE METROPOLITAN Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) said Thursday that compliance with environmental requirements in connection with the Kaliwa Dam is ongoing with construction still yet to begin, even as the design phase for the P12.2 billion project exceeds 90% completion.

“Clearly, compliance with the ECC’s requirements is a continuous process that should be integrated into all phases and aspects…. with the Design-Build framework of the contract,” the MWSS said in a statement.

The water regulator was responding to a finding by the Commission on Audit (CoA) that the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the project could be at risk despite the advanced stages of project preparation.

The MWSS said that the 92.67% completion in the Detailed Engineering and Design (DED) phase noted by CoA only refers to preparatory works, with no ground actually being broken.

“To date, overall accomplishment is 10.44% which comprises the DED accomplishment including other preconstruction items such as the design and manufacturing of the tunnel boring machine. No construction, equipment, or ground works have mobilized or begun,” the MWSS said.

Tunnel boring for the Kaliwa Dam project is expected to start in December.

The agency also said that the DENR requires for the pre-construction and DED phase a Certification Precondition on Free Prior and Informed Consent from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, permits of disposal sites of excavated materials, and the Special Use Agreement in protected areas.

In its 2020 audit report, the CoA said the MWSS proceeded with implementing the project without proper documentation, which could lead to the “cancellation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC)” issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Oct. 11, 2019.

Following the release of the ECC, MWSS issued a Notice to Proceed to China Energy Engineering Corp., Ltd. (CEEC) to commence work on the project. The Kaliwa Dam project is a joint venture of the MWSS and CEEC, the design and building contractor.

The commission also noted that the MWSS has also yet to submit a memorandum of agreement with local government units for the project’s social development program, a copy of the approved reforestation program, and a copy of the creation of an environmental unit upon receipt of the ECC.

The agency also failed to submit authenticated copies of the Compliance Monitoring Report (CMR) and DENR correspondence to the state auditor.

“We recognize the importance of this project to the government with the objective of ensuring water security… However, the MWSS should also comply with all the conditions and restrictions of the DENR… in order to protect and mitigate the project’s adverse impacts on community health, welfare, and the environment,” CoA said.

The CoA recommended that the MWSS Engineering and Technical Group secure the necessary permits, to which the MWSS replied in its audit comment that the documents referred to have been duly filed.

The documents included a CMR for January to June 2020, draft of the integrated development plan, a reforestation and carbon sink program, a detailed waste management plan. It has also created an environment unit, as required.

However, the state auditors said the CMR documentation was incomplete. Among the deficiencies cited was that the documents submitted were photocopied.

The Kaliwa Dam, expected to be completed by 2025, will provide an estimated 600 million liters of water daily to Metro Manila, which currently sources most of its water from Angat Dam in Bulacan. It has been opposed by indigenous and environmental groups. — Russell Louis C. Ku

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