OPPOSITION SENATOR Leila M. de Lima called for a suspension of all construction activities on the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project, citing the Commission on Audit (CoA) report and Senate investigations indicating irregularities in implementation.   

Ms. De Lima filed Resolution No. 909 on Thursday saying all legal prerequisites and issues must first be settled before the project proceeds.  

“Government remains hell-bent to push forward with the project, despite credible claims that the social, cultural, environmental, and economic costs of the Kaliwa Dam Project outweigh its purported benefits,” said Ms. De Lima in a statement on Sunday.  

“There is a need to determine once and for all the viability of the Kaliwa Dam Project and the impacts it will have on its primary stakeholders, particularly the local indigenous population,” she added.  

She cited a Senate Committee on Cultural Communities report saying that “laws protecting indigenous peoples’ rights were not complied within the course of implementing the project.”  

CoA, in its 2020 audit report, said the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has been proceeding with the project without proper documentation such as a memorandum of agreement with local government units for the project’s social development program, a copy of the approved reforestation program, and the creation of an environmental unit upon receipt of the environmental compliance certificate.  

In a statement on Sept. 16, MWSS said they are continuously working on the environmental requirements and actual construction has yet to begin for the P12.2-billion project that will serve as a water supply source to the capital Metro Manila.   

“With the controversies surrounding the Kaliwa Dam project, there is also a need to explore alternatives to address water security, so that we may not only protect the rights of ICCs (indigenous cultural communities) or IPs (indigenous people) to their ancestral lands but also maintain the beauty and biodiversity of our forests and mountainous regions,” she said.   

In June this year, MWSS said tunnel excavation work on the dam is expected to start by December with the arrival in July of a boring machine. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan 

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