Haribon Foundation on Tuesday urged the Duterte administration not to proceed with signing a loan deal for the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project as this will have a negative impact on the environment and threaten wildlife species in the forests of Sierra Madre.
“We call on the government to refrain from the signing of the loan agreement for the construction of the Kaliwa Dam and instead protect and rehabilitate degraded watersheds supplying potable water to Metro Manila,” Maria Belinda de la Paz, Haribon chief operating officer, said in a statement.
The Philippine government is set to secure financing deals with China for the P18.724-billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, among others, during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“The construction of the multi-billion peso Kaliwa Dam Project will not only have devastating effects on people’s lives, it will also ravage the homes of thousands of threatened wildlife species in the Sierra Madre mountain forests including the Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle,” De la Paz said.
Sierra Madre is considered as one area with the most biodiversity and the largest remaining tract of rainforest in the country.
The Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve, in which the Kaliwa Dam is to be constructed, was declared a forest reserve by Proclamation No. 573 on June 22, 1968, according to Haribon.
Separately, Proclamation No. 1636 issued on April 18, 1977 declared a portion of the watershed as National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.
The environmental group believes that the survival of wildlife the area depends on the extensive lowland and mountain forests of Sierra Madre.
Kaliwa Watershed is home to various threatened wildlife such as the Endangered Northern Philippine Hawk-eagle, the Philippine Brown Deer, the Philippine Warty Pig, the Vulnerable Northern Rufous Hornbill, the Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle, and restricted-range birds of the Luzon Endemic Bird Area, all of which are found nowhere else on the planet, the environmental group noted.
Haribon said the dam construction will endanger various plant life found in the Sierra Madre mountain range.
The Kaliwa Watershed is host to about 28,000 hectares of forests, as well as ancestral and agricultural lands.
“The Kaliwa Dam may also alter the water temperatures and small habitats downstream,” De la Paz said, noting that studies have proven that water released behind dams usually comes from near-bottom of the reservoirs, where little sunlight penetrates.
“This freezing water significantly lowers the temperature of sun-warmed shallow water, rendering them unfit for certain kinds of fish and other wildlife that largely depend on regular temperature cycles and balanced oxygen content,” she said.
The Kaliwa Dam project is estimated to provide additional 600 million liters a day of water to Metro Manila.
But the environmental group said that to ensure water security in Metro Manila, a dam cannot deliver this alone.
“There is need to explore all viable solutions that will create the least adverse impact to the environment and our people.”
The group cited restoration and conservation of forests in existing watersheds such as Angat and La Mesa as more cost-effective and will ensure continued water supply for Metro Manila and nearby provinces for years to come.
Haribon urged the government to rehabilitate existing water reservoirs and strengthen the implementation of efficient water distribution systems and facilities.
Recycling water is another viable option, it said.
“There is a need to explore the use of potentially 85 percent of used water that is released as wastewater that could be treated and used for agricultural and landscape irrigation and industrial processes, among others.” —Ted Cordero/VDS, GMA News