A controversial China-funded mega-dam project in the northern Philippines that threatens to displace thousands of tribal people has obtained an environmental compliance certificate.
The certificate, which was issued by the Environment Management Bureau on Oct. 11, allows the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, the proponent, and contractor China Energy Engineering Corp. to proceed with the Kaliwa Dam project.
“You are expected to implement the measures presented in the environmental impact statements intended to protect and mitigate the project’s adverse impacts on the community, health, welfare, and the environment,” the certificate reads.
The proponent and the contractor, however, still have to secure “necessary permits from other pertinent government agencies” before they can start the construction of the dam.
The issuance of the certificate drew criticism from various church and pro-environment groups opposed to the project that got its funding from a US$248 million loan from China.
Father Pete Montallana said the issuance of the certificate clearly shows that the government favors businesses over the welfare of the people and the environment.
The priest who heads the Save Sierra Madre Network said five out of six clusters of indigenous communities “said no” to the implementation of the project.
The mega dam project, which is one of the 75 flagship infrastructure projects under the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program, will displace at least 15,000 indigenous people.
“The government said the dam will solve the water crisis in Metro Manila but how about the people it will affect and the environment that it will destroy?” Father Montallana told UCA News.
The priest criticized the decision to issue the certificate despite testimonies of environmental experts and scientists that “the project’s environmental impact statement (EIS) lacks good science and thorough analysis.”
Early this month, environmental expert Ruben Guieb said the EIS “was not able to identify and qualify the significant impacts of the project.”
He said the proponents do not have sufficient plans to ensure that “mitigation and enhancement measures” will be in place.
Father Montallana said the dam project “is a train-wreck waiting to happen,” adding, “They did not conduct further studies to test whether the proposed structure could stand a strong earthquake considering that it is located on a fault line.”
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce said they reject the certificate issuance “as proponents ignored the risks of biodiversity loss, forest degradation, and long-term depletion of water supply.”
Lawyer Aaron Pedrosa of Sanlakas said they will make government agencies that are attempting to railroad the project accountable amidst irregularities of the project.
“We will make sure that will make them accountable if they will push this project that clouded with so many anomalies and irregularities from the very onset,” he said.
Pedrosa noted that the proposed dam already violated the law in its procurement process after a commission on audit revealed that the bidding process was little more than a sham.
The Kaliwa Dam project is an integrated dam system involving the construction of a dam on the Kaliwa River in Rizal province, and a smaller dam downstream in Quezon province.