By Chito Chavez
Indigenous peoples (IP) on Friday staged a rally in front of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) head office in Quezon City to press their opposition to the construction of the Kaliwa Dam in Quezon province.
The rallyists said the dam that this would displace them and damage their ancestral domain.
The Kaliwa dam project hopes to provide an additional 600 million liters of water per day (MLD) to Metro Manila, which is reeling from a water shortage.
The protesters, who are from Quezon, said installing of pumping stations is the more viable option.
Last year, the environmental group Harribon Foundation appealed to the government to reject the signing of a loan deal for the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project citing its “negative impact on the environment and threaten wildlife species in the forests of Sierra Madre’’.
“We call on the government to refrain from the signing of the loan agreement for the construction of the Kaliwa Dam and instead protect and rehabilitate degraded watersheds supplying potable water to Metro Manila,” Maria Belinda dela Paz, Haribon chief operating officer, said in a statement.
Dela Paz said the dam alone cannot ensure water security for Metro Manila.
“There is need to explore all viable solutions that will create the least adverse impact to the environment and our people,” she said.
The group cited restoration and conservation of forests in existing watersheds such as Angat and La Mesa as more cost-effective and will ensure continued water supply for Metro Manila and nearby provinces for years to come.
The project “will also ravage the homes of thousands of threatened wildlife species in the Sierra Madre mountain forests including the Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle,” Dela Paz added.
Sierra Madre is considered as one area with the most biodiversity and the largest remaining tract of rainforest in the country.
Haribon Foundation said the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve, where the proposed Kaliwa Dam will be constructed, was declared a forest reserve by Proclamation No. 573 on June 22, 1968.
Separately, Proclamation No. 1636 issued on April 18, 1977 declared a portion of the watershed as National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Kaliwa Watershed is home to various threatened wildlife such as the Endangered Northern Philippine Hawk-eagle, the Philippine Brown Deer, the Philippine Warty Pig, the Vulnerable Northern Rufous Hornbill, the Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle, and restricted-range birds of the Luzon Endemic Bird Area, all of which are found nowhere else on the planet, the environmental group noted.
The Kaliwa Watershed has about 28,000 hectares of forests, as well as ancestral and agricultural lands.
Haribon urged the government to rehabilitate existing water reservoirs and strengthen the implementation of efficient water distribution systems and facilities.