Senate aspirant slams Finance chief for being in favor of China-funded dam

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Magdalo Party-list Representative Gary Alejano and Finance Secretary Carlos "Sonny" Dominguez

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 14) — Magdalo Party-list Representative and senatorial candidate Gary Alejano slammed Finance Secretary Carlos "Sonny" Dominguez for supporting the faster rollout and construction of a China-funded dam in Quezon.

"Why does this administration have such huge fondness for China? Why are they using this chaos in advancing the interests of China? As per the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), there is no need to worry as the water levels in Angat Dam, the main water source for Metro Manila, are still within the normal range. According to authorities, water from Angat Dam can supply Metro Manila for another 125 days," Alejano said in a statement Thursday.

Dominguez, in the Development Budget Coordinating Council press briefing Wednesday, said the current water crisis should prompt the creation of the Kaliwa Dam, which would be funded partly through an official development assistance (ODA) grant from China. In November, China signed a soft loan deal with the Philippines, which includes a pledge of ₱12 billion for the ₱18.7-billion project.

The dam is said to augment the water supply in the metro.

But critics and environmental groups have called for a stop to the dam construction, saying it will harm the indigenous communities living in the area and will leave the Philippines indebted to China. Beijing reportedly influences nations through their "debtbook diplomacy," but the government shrugged off concerns of falling into the so-called Chinese debt trap.

Alejano, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration and Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea, said the water crisis must be assessed before resorting to the China-funded dam project.

"Bago siguro isubo na naman sa atin ng administrasyon ang China, imbestigahan at alamin muna kung bakit may krisis gayung may tubig naman sa Angat Dam na siyang pangunahing pinagkukunan ng ating suplay," Alejano said.

[Translation: Before the administration forces us to engage with China, let's investigate first why there is currently a water crisis and if there is indeed water in Angat which is the primary supply source]

"Para naman tayong sinisindikato o iniisahan ng sarili nating gobyerno [It's like we're being duped by our own government]," he added. "Instead of offering immediate solutions to the water crisis, they are more after advancing Chinese loans that will drown us to debt."

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin meanwhile, ranted at those who oppose the dam's construction.

"Is any other country willing to finance it? No. Can something else be done to acquire it? Yes; if you all get shovels and start digging the hole for the reservoir and piling up the dirt for the dam. I'd be happy to know I am wrong. Know, ha, not told," said in his Twitter post.

The water level at Angat Dam was at 199.63 as of March 14. The dam's minimum operating level is at 180 meters -- enough to supply both domestic and irrigation demands.

Angat Dam is connected to the La Mesa Water Reservoir in Quezon City, which is at it lowest water level in 12 years. Manila Water, the concessionaire which supplies water to the eastern part of Metro Manila and some parts of Rizal, pointed to the La Mesa dam's critical level behind the series of water interruptions and low water supply since March 7.

Various lawmakers and critics, however, said the shortage may be "artificial" and just a way to justify the Kaliwa Dam's construction, with President Rodrigo Duterte's warmer ties with China.