Infanta bishop vows to oppose China-funded Kaliwa Dam

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This structure, which locals call "Laiban Dam" in Tanay, Rizal, was built during the time of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and will form part of the Kaliwa Dam project. Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – The bishop of the Prelature of Infanta in Quezon has vowed to oppose the construction of China-funded Kaliwa Dam, asserting that the project is a hazard to the environment and residents.

In an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas on Thursday, Bishop Bernardino Cortez said despite the government's insistence that the project is a done deal, they would continue efforts to halt the dam's construction.

"Matagal nang sinasabi sa'min 'yan, na done deal na, para sabihing pumayag na kami. Hindi kami pumapayag," the prelate said.

(They have been telling us for a long time now that it is a done deal to earn our approval. We do not approve.)

"Patuloy kaming luluhod sa Diyos at mas makapangyarihan ang sa taas. Ang Diyos ay nakikinig sa daing ng mga dukha at mahihirap, mga inaapi."

(We continue to oppose the project. We will continue pleading to God who is much more powerful. God listens to the plea of the poor, the oppressed.)

The bishop is challenging those who are pushing for the construction of the dam to try to live in their area to see the real situation there.

"Basta ang sinasabi lang namin, kung may konsensiya sila, pakinggan nila ang kanilang konsensiya," the bishop added.

(What we are saying is if they have conscience, then they should try and listen to their conscience.)

Last July 2018, Bernardino, with the support of the leadership of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), released a pastoral letter detailing reasons why they were opposing the project.

One of the reasons highlighted by the bishop was that the construction of the dam will "inundate the ancestral domain of the Dumagat-Remontados, uprooting them from the Sierra Madre where their ancestors lived for centuries."

Bernardino also noted that the Kaliwa Dam, which will be built on the Infanta Fault, would be a "sword hanging over the head of 100,000 people living downstream the Kaliwa River."

Instead of pursuing the project, government should use the billions in funding to pursue alternative sources of water like the rehabilitation of the Pasig-Laguna River Basin and adopting the Singapore New Water technology, which treats wastewater to become potable.

"Ang pinakamagandang solusyon, ang source ang ayusin natin. ‘Yung natural source na aalisin mo ‘yun, ‘wag mong aalisin ang gubat. Doon nagmumula ang tubig," the bishop added.

(The best solution is for us to fix the source of our water. You will remove the natural source. Don't destroy the forest. That's where the water comes from.)

Controversy over the construction of Kaliwa Dam heated up amid the water crisis that hit parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces this month. The China-funded dam is tipped as among long-term solutions to ensure steady water supply in the metropolis.

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