A network of environmental activists has revealed irregularities in the government’s process of securing the requirements for the building of a dam in the northern Philippines.
The activists said proponents of the building of the dam “are pulling out all the stops in an effort to get the project off the ground.”
Franciscan priest Pete Montallana, spokesman of the Stop Kaliwa Dam Network, said the government and the people behind the project have been hiding pieces of information to the public.
The priest accused the government of lack of “honesty and transparency” for revising the plan for the dam two months after a copy was released to the public.
The network claimed that the people behind the dam project failed to conduct a deeper study on how it would affect the environment and the communities around the area.
Environmental expert Ruben Guieb said the Environmental Impact Statement system of the project “lack[s] good science,” which is to be used “to identify and quantify the significant impact of the project.”
Guieb said a study on the impact of the project is required so that “mitigation and enhancement measures” will be in place.
He said the Kaliwa Watershed Management Plan, which was released by the proponents of the dam project “is an empty book” that is “not even in its skeletal form.”
“All it says is it will do reforestation, reduce sedimentation, maximize the use of the dam,” said Guieb.
Structural-Earthquake Engineering Consultant Carlos Villaraza said tests made to analyze the structural integrity of the proposed dam is also lacking.
He said a study of the “10,000-year return period” should be made because the location of the proposed mega dam project is a “direct hit of a fault line.”
A “return period” is an average time, or an estimated average time, between events such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, or a river discharge flow.
Villaraza noted that the design of the Kaliwa Dam is almost the same as the St. Francis Dam in California, where hundreds of people died when it collapsed in 1928.
“[Proponents] should look into all possible earthquake scenarios so that they can go deeper into the risk analysis and what could happen to the areas downstream,” he said.
Rovik Obanil of the Freedom From Debt Coalition called on the Environment department not to issue an Environmental Compliance Certificate for the project.
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.
The project, which will reportedly displace at least 15,000 tribal people, got its funding from the US$248 million loan from China and is one of 75 flagship infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the government.
In 2018, at least 51 Catholic bishops signed a pastoral letter issued by Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta opposing the dam project.
The letter called on the government to look for alternative water sources that would address the water supply problem affecting the capital Manila.