The Climate Rights International (CRI) and the Manila Observatory (MO) joined the call to stop ongoing activities for the construction of the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, and urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to stop all related activities pending an independent expert inquiry into the project’s potential adverse impact to people and the environment.
At the same time, the groups, in a letter to the President dated October 16, also urged the government to commit to implementing the recommendations arising from the investigation.
The P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam Project is expected to be completed by mid-2026 and will be able to supply water to Metro Manila households and nearby areas by early 2027.
Eyed to augment supply from the 60-year-old Angat Dam, the Kaliwa Dam Project has been strongly opposed by environmental groups and communities, including the Dumagats of Quezon and Rizal because of fear of its environmental impacts.
A global non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting human rights and addressing climate change, CRI and MO, however, commended President Marcos’ commitment to prioritize environmental concerns and the country’s resilience to climate change.
They also appreciated the President’s acknowledgment of the invaluable role played by Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples (IP) in preserving the country’s rich cultural heritage.
However, after conducting field research and consulting local residents and experts, CRI and MO said they have identified “serious concerns” about the Kaliwa Dam project. These concerns encompass both the environment and the human rights of the IPs within the project area.
According to CRI and MO, the construction of the dam is expected to cause severe economic repercussions on the Dumagat-Remontado IPs and local communities who depend on agriculture and tourism.
They also raised alleged irregularities in compensation distribution, which have raised questions about the application of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA).
The two climate organizations also raised the issue of the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) process as there are accusations of insufficient consultations, adding that if any, the processes that have been made by local residents and nongovernment organizations are “flawed.”
Lastly, the CRI and MO raised the dam’s construction threatens the cultural and spiritual heritage of the IPs, particularly due to the loss of the sacred Tinipak River.
They maintained that the construction of the Kaliwa Dam within a forest reserve could lead to increased deforestation and damage to the Sierra Madre’s unique ecosystem, increasing the risks of disaster as the project may exacerbate typhoon-related risks, flooding, landslides, and erosion in the region.