The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and other groups under the Sectors Opposed to the Kaliwa Dam (STOP Kaliwa Dam) network trooped to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) today to push for the scrapping of the application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the controversial New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project.

“We find it alarming that rather than listening to the broad opposition to the project from indigenous peoples, local communities, environmentalists and civil society advocates, the government appears hell-bent on pushing through with the project. Reports from our IP members who participated in the on-going process for free prior and informed consent (FPIC) being conducted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) reveal that majority of the Dumagat-Remontados have rejected the project,” FDC Executive Director Zeena Manglinog said.

STOP Kaliwa Dam leaders submitted copies of anti-Kaliwa Dam petition representing an initial 100,000 signatures to emphasize the snow-balling opposition to the project.

“The signed petitions we have gathered so far prove that there is overwhelming opposition to this project. This is not surprising given the numerous negative environmental, social and economic impacts that will come with this project. We expect the on-going signature drive to reach at least a million signatures before the year ends,” Manglinong added.

According to FDC, the real cost of the project will actually be much higher than what has come out in the media.

“The China loan component of the dam amounting to some P10.37 billion represents a big chunk of the cost of the Kaliwa Dam project. But that is not the entire cost of the Kaliwa Dam and its proponents have been keeping this fact from the public. If you add the compensation for displaced IPs and communities, the tunnels and water treatment plants, without which the dam would be useless, the cost will actually double,” Manglinong revealed.

“In fact, the doubling may not even capture the bloating of the price tag itself. Manglinong emphasized that project revisions can almost double the initial price—this we have seen in the ongoing Mindanao Rail Phase 1 project wherein its price tag jumped to 82.9 billion from its previous and approved price of 35.9 billion,” Manglinong said.

FDC warned that ordinary Filipinos will shoulder the full cost of the dam project. “All of this will eventually be paid for by consumers, who will be forced to contend with higher water rates as government has apparently decided that despite being an ODA, project, only Metro Manila’s water consumers will foot the bill,” Manglinong said.