MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he would use all the powers of the presidency to bring an end to water shortages in Metro Manila, even if the solution may pose environmental damage.
In an interview with reporters on Monday, October 28, he was asked about his support for the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project, which indigenous groups are opposing, fearing environmental damage and displacement.
“Let me be very clear to the citizens. You have every right to protest if it places your lives in jeopardy, but if the safeguards are there between your concerns and the crisis that you’re trying to avoid, I will use the extraordinary powers of the presidency,” he said on Monday, October 28, in Malacañang.
“If your concern, you local governments, is that it will pollute, it will destroy, I will just say to you, just place the safeguards. It might create some danger or damage, but that is not my concern. My concern is the welfare – the greatest good for the great number – that is democracy,” added Duterte.
Located in Quezon province, the Kaliwa Dam project, also known as the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, is expected to supply Metro Manila an additional 600 million liters of water per day (MLD).
The Duterte administration is taking a loan from China to fund 85% of the P12.2-billion project. A commercial contract for it was signed between the Metropolitan Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System and China Energy Engineering Cooperation during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Philippines in 2018.
Asked by a reporter what he thought of opposition to the project, Duterte said he would operate the facility himself to make sure there would be no anomalies or harm done.
But he said environmental violations is not enough of a reason to delay a project that could provide a new source of water.
“Just because your environment will be spoiled, that will not be a good answer,” said Duterte.
This is a marked departure from the President’s usual rhetoric against big mining companies that pollute the environment and destroy watersheds.
What powers? Duterte was not certain what type of “extraordinary powers” he would use to ensure the Kaliwa Dam project’s implementation.
Saying he was still “taking stock of [his] options,” he floated “expropriation or outright police power.”
Asked to be more specific, he said, “It must be confiscatory, talagang agawin ko (I will really take it).”
He dared detractors to file cases against him in court if they thought this was illegal. – Rappler.com