September 16, 2021
Civil society organizations (CSOs) expressed indignation over Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems’ (MWSS) highly irregular implementation of the Php12-billion Kaliwa Dam Project.
On September 9, 2021 the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged MWSS for implementing the Build Build Build Program (BBB) flagship project even without the necessary permits. Among the requirements lacking are an approved reforestation program, waste management plan, and others from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
CSOs condemned how the inhabitants of Infanta, Quezon, who are mostly indigenous Dumagat communities, have been excluded from the project. It can also be remembered that the House Committee on indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples issued a cease order in the dam’s construction last June 9.
“The MWSS pushed through with the project without obtaining the Free Prior and Informed Consent of the indigenous peoples and communities affected by the project,” said Tyrone Beyer, Campaign and Advocacy officer of Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP).
The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) condemned the irregularities that proliferate in many government transactions and projects.
“Mounting accounts of illicit government transactions and projects show utter disregard for checks and balances, and the growing culture of impunity by many government agencies. Violations of our Constitution, laws, and processes seem to be spreading within the whole bureaucracy and these must be stopped. Worse is that these are being done at the expense of the people,” Liza Maza, CPDG spokesperson said.
COA’s recent audit reports have flagged many national government agencies’ irregular transactions and backlogs. Pres. Duterte however did not take this as a cue to address irregularities and instead hit COA over its reports.
“The President should stop defending government officials that fail in their sworn duties because this only institutionalizes the government’s lack of accountability to the people. Such acts only betray where his real loyalty is,” Maza added.
The CSOs said that the public should keep reminding government to whom it is chiefly liable, especially for its programs that affect the people.
“There is clear and strong opposition against the Kaliwa dam in Dumagat communities. It will be best if the government and MWSS listen to the voices of the opposition, stop the project, and seek other alternatives to ensure stable water supply for Metro Manila and nearby provinces. The claim that many people ‘benefit’ from it does not justify the huge displacement and ethnocide,” Beyer further explained.
Aside from displacing Dumagat communities, the dam project has been criticized for the terms of the official development assistance (ODA) funding it. In 2019, the Makabayan bloc filed a petition in the Supreme Court (SC) against the Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement for being onerous, one-sided, and giving too many concessions to the creditor. To date, the SC is yet to release their decision.
“BBB projects, like Kaliwa among many other dams, are funded through ODA and loans. This means that it will be shouldered by the people in the long run. These can only serve people’s development if they themselves take part in the process. Otherwise, it is just another burden for generations to come and for foreign corporations to acquire wealth from,” Maza ended. #