Pro-environment, IP groups ask gov’t to publicize Kaliwa Dam documents

Mara Cepeda
Pro-environment, IP groups ask gov’t to publicize Kaliwa Dam documents
The groups' legal counsel, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, says they are 'worried' that the government is 'hiding' details of the Kaliwa Dam project

MANILA, Philippines – Various pro-environment and indigenous peoples’ groups against the construction of the Kaliwa Dam asked top government officials to publicize documents of the China-funded project.

In a letter dated Wednesday, March 20, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, the counsel of the groups, wrote a letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

They are asking for copies of two documents: the Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement and the Commercial Contract of the Kaliwa Dam project between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and China Energy Engineering Corporation.

Those who signed the letter of request are the following:

  • Apolinario Derilo, chairperson of Task Force Sierra Madre for Balanced Ecology
  • Fr Pete Montalliana, chairperson of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance
  • Conrado Vargas, executive director of the Prelature of Infanta, Community Organization of the Philippines
  • Marcelino Tena, president of the Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta/Dumagat-Remontado na Binabaka at Ipinagtatanggol ang Lupaing Ninuno
  • Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta, Quezon
  • Oscar Catilo, member of the Presidential Proclamation 1636 and Sandiwaan Laban sa Kaliwa Dam Coordinating Group
  • Demosthenes Raynera, trustee-director of the Tribal Center for Development

“Ito po ay FOI letter o Freedom of Information letter. Hinihingi natin sa kanila na ilabas ang mga dokumento na ukol dito sa Kaliwa Dam…. Kami po’y nababahala na nililihim nila ang nilalaman nitong mga agreement at kontratang ito dahil these are matters of public concern,” said Diokno in a press conference on Thursday, March 21. 

(This is an FOI or a Freedom of Information letter. We’re asking them to release the documents about the Kaliwa Dam…. We’re worried that they are keeping secret the contents of these contracts, because these are matters of public concern.) 

“Ayon sa ating Saligang Batas ay may karapatan tayong lahat, ang mamamayang Pilipino, na makakuha ng kopya nitong mga kontrata at malaman kung ano’ng niloloob (Our Constitution says we, the Filipino people, have the right to get copies of contracts and know their contents),” added Diokno, also a senatorial candidate from the Otso Diretso ticket.

The Kaliwa Dam project was finalized after the two-day state visit to the Philippines of Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2018.

The dam will be built in the municipalities of General Nakar and Infanta in Quezon and is expected to supply some 600 million liters per day to Metro Manila. It would cost P12.2 billion to build, with 85% set to be funded by China through official development assistance.

Several politicians and civic groups alike are opposing the construction of the Kaliwa Dam. (READ: Robredo on China-funded Kaliwa Dam: Bakit uutang tayo?)

Japanese firm Global Utility Development Corporation also said its proposed Kaliwa Intake Weir project with the Philippine government would be a cheaper alternative to the China-funded Kaliwa Dam, but the MWSS said this is not true. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.