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Robredo on China-funded Kaliwa Dam: Bakit uutang tayo?

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo questioned the need for the Philippines to borrow funds from China for the P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam project.

In her radio show Biserbisyong Leni on Sunday, March 17, Robredo asked why the project changed from being a public-private partnership (PPP) under the Aquino administration to one that would be funded through official development assistance from China.

"Ang 85%, utang natin sa China, 15% tayo iyong gagastos. So, hindi ko talaga alam, kung bakit mas gugustuhin nating umutang kaysa wala tayong gagastusin. Kasi noong 2014, iyong approved na project, talagang walang gagastusin iyong gobyerno.... Bakit uutang tayo na puwede naman na hindi tayo gagastos?" the Vice President said.

(85% [of the project cost], we will borrow from China, 15% we will shoulder. I don't know why we would prefer to borrow rather than not spend. In 2014, the project that was approved would have been at no cost to the government.... Why will we borrow when we don't have to spend?)

Aside from this, Robredo raised the concerns of communities in General Nakar, Infanta, and Real in Quezon province who would be affected by the construction of the dam. She pointed out that indigenous peoples would be displaced.

The Kaliwa Dam is being eyed as a solution to the water supply crisis in Metro Manila and Rizal. It is expected to provide an additional 600 million liters per day.

Should the construction push through this year, the dam is expected to be done by 2023.

Conflicting statements

Robredo added that conflicting statements on the water crisis have only caused more confusion for the public. (READ: Manila Water's supply crisis: What we know so far)

"Iyong pinakamalungkot dito, kasi depende kung sino ang nagsasalita, iba-iba iyong sinasabi. Kaya minsan, iyong tanong nga, 'Ano ba talaga?' Ano ba talaga iyong kuwento? Gusto sana natin marinig galing sa pamahalaan bakit ba tayo umabot sa ganito," the Vice President said.

(The saddest thing here is, depending on whoever speaks, they say different things. That's why sometimes people ask, "What's the real deal?" What's the true story? We want to hear from the government how we even got to this situation.)

"May isang statement pa yata si Attorney Panelo na artificial daw iyong water shortage. Iba ang sinasabi ng Manila Water. Iba ang sinasabi ng MWSS.... Ang gusto natin malaman, ano ba talaga," she added. 

([Presidential Spokesperson Salvador] Panelo said the water shortage may be artificial. Manila Water says otherwise. MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System) says something different.... We want to know what's really going on.)

Parts of Metro Manila and Rizal serviced by Ayala-led Manila Water went waterless for days, after interruptions were first felt on March 7. (READ: EXPLAINER: What caused Manila Water's service problems?)

The crisis affected households and schools, delayed treatment at hospitals, and disrupted business operations.

The House of Representatives is set to hold a hearing on the matter on Monday, March 18, while the Senate will have its own inquiry on Tuesday, March 19. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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