Groups demand disclosure of China-funded Kaliwa Dam deals

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 21) — Leaders of various groups on Thursday demanded the government to publicize a copy of its deals with China on the multibillion-peso Kaliwa dam project in Rizal and Quezon.

Community and church leaders living near the dam construction site said they sent a "freedom of information letter" to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Affairs Chief Teddy Locsin Jr. to release a copy of the Preferential Buyer's Credit Loan Agreement on the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewage System (MWSS) and the Export-Import Bank of China.

The document is available on the Finance Department's website. The group is also asking for a copy of the Commercial Contract between the MWSS and the China Energy Engineering Corporation.

Chel Diokno, a senatorial candidate and legal counsel of the groups, gave the government a 15-day ultimatum or face legal charges.

He said the documents are important to find out if the dam construction is disadvantageous to the government and the Filipinos.

"Kami po ay nababahala na inililihim nila ang nilalaman nitong mga agreement at kontrata dahil these are matters of public concern. We are also concerned that these contracts may contain onerous provisions na hindi maka-Pilipino, na hindi maganda sa ating kabuhayan, at interes ng Pilipinas," he said in a media briefing.

The Duterte administration defended its decision to shift from a public-private partnership (PPP) to an official development assistance (ODA) with China. The Finance Department on Wednesday said the project would have cost P18.7 billion under a PPP arrangement, but the ODA has reduced the amount to P12.2 billion.

Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino added the final tab could reach P14.5 billion with the 2 percent interest per year, but it will still be a better deal. He also allayed fears that the Philippines will fall into the so-called China debt trap.

Agta/Dumagat tribe leader Marcelino Tena also raised the concerns of the indigenous peoples who will be affected by the construction of the dam. The government targeted to begin the project in July so it can eventually become another water source for Metro Manila.

"Sa bahagi po ng mga katutubo sa hilagang Quezon, ipinapahayag din po naming mga katutubo yung tuwirang pagtutol talaga sa dam, dahil sa amin pong mga katutubo, diyan po kami nakatira. Ngayon, sa bahagi po namin, hindi lang po kami binabraso ng MWSS. Ginagahasa pa kami ng MWSS," he said.

Fr. Peter Montalliana, Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance chairperson, also said the residents may be victims of the environmental effects of the dam.

MWSS earlier said the Kaliwa dam construction will not proceed without the approval of thousands of Dumagat members in their ancestral land, and residents of Barangay Laiban. MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco said consultations are ongoing for the tribal group's relocation.

A 27-kilometer tunnel will connect the water source from General Nakar-Infanta in Quezon to a water treatment plant in Antipolo-Teresa in Rizal to supply water to Metro Manila and nearby areas. It is expected to provide 600 million liters of water per day.