A local Catholic Church in Quezon province has reiterated its warning to the hazards of the multibillion Kaliwa Dam project.
Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta said that the multibillion mega-dam project is a matter of survival to the people as it poses risks to lowland agricultural and fishing communities with a history of flash flooding. (Read: Baguio Bishop Hits Property Developer for ‘Murder’ of Pine Trees) He also added that the most affected communities cannot defend themselves because of poverty and lack of education.
Dumagats in Danger
The prelature covers the northern part of Quezon and the Aurora province. It lies along the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and on the east of the vast Pacific Ocean.
The area is also the home of thousands of Dumagats—an indigenous community in the highlands of Infanta who depend on farming, hunting, and fishing to survive. (Read: This group of engineering students is literally bringing light to an indigenous community in Bulacan)
“By geography, our very survival depends on the care of our mountains, forests, rivers, protection of mangroves and seashores,” Bishop Cortez said.
Government figures say that the tribe now numbers less than 30,000 because of being displaced in their ancestral lands by big corporations.
The P12.2 billion China-funded Kaliwa Dam is among the government’s priority projects. It is slated a long-term solution to Metro Manila’s water problems.
According to Bishop Cortez, the dam is a danger to the environment as the project falls within the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve. He urged the government to look for alternative sources of water—watershed rehabilitation and improving existing dams and water facilities are some of the solutions he suggested.
“We hope and pray that our people in this ‘Jubilee for the Earth’ will develop a new mindset and a paradigm shift in our care and use of the common home,” he said. (Read: New ‘Table-To-Farm’ Project Helps Aetas in Zambales Grow Their Own Food)
The Kaliwa Dam project was approved under the Aquino administration but no construction has begun since. Environment groups such as Haribon have lobbied and fought against the project saying it will cause “long-term, irreversible environmental damage to the Sierra Madre and its biodiversity” and displace the Dumagat tribes residing there.
President Rodrigo Duterte has earlier said that the government will pay the natives who will be displaced to make way for the dikes and tunnels that will be built in the area. Relocation areas will also be provided.