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DENR defends Kaliwa Dam project amid online petition for cancellation

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday defended the Kaliwa Dam project from those who raised concerns on possible deforestation of Sierra Madre during its construction.

During the Laging Handa public briefing, DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones assured the public that the project will undergo a thorough review upon implementation.

“Yung Kaliwa Dam, kung ang ikinatatakot nila ay magkakaroon ng massive deforestation, palagay ko hindi naman papayag ang ating departamento kung masisira ang ating kagubatan diyan,” Leones said.

“Sa aming pananaw, ito ay dumadaan sa masusing pagre-review. Sa mga dapat nila i-comply, hangga’t maari, wala po talagang masisirang mga puno at dapat maigi ang konsultasyon na ginagawa,” he added.

Leones made the statement when asked about the online petition calling for the cancellation of the Kaliwa Dam project, which resurfaced on social media amid the flooding in Cagayan and Isabela due to Typhoon Ulysses.

Some government officials like President Rodrigo Duterte and Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba blamed environmental issues such as mining and illegal logging for the calamity.

Leones said the DENR is taking care of Sierra Madre through planting programs, law enforcement, and assistance to local communities.

“Ang Sierra Madre, isa po talagang kino-consider natin na protected area. Ito po ang pinakamahabang mountain range natin. Mula sa Cagayan hanggang sa Quezon po ang haba ng Sierra Madre,” he said.

Leones said 70% of the mountain range is "vegetated."

Asked about if  DENR can ban all mining activities in Sierra Madre to prevent further damage, Leones pointed out that mining will be allowed as long as they complied with environmental laws.

In 2019, residents of Infanta, Quezon called on the DENR to revoke the environmental compliance certificate it issued for the Kaliwa Dam project.

The dam, which would be located in towns of Infanta and General Nakar in Quezon, received opposition from groups and residents who fear its effects on the environment and nearby communities.

As of writing, the online petition against the dam project has earned 140,134 signatures. —KBK, GMA News