Kaliwa dam project flagged, COA wants it reviewed for irregularities
Last week, COA called out the MWSS for proceeding with the implementation of the P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam project in Infanta, Quezon without proof of compliance with environmental prerequisites and submission of necessary permits.
In its 2020 annual audit report, the COA noted the MWSS entered into a contract agremeent and issued a notice to China Energy Engineering Corp. Ltd. to proceed with the project on Nov. 13, 2019.
The COA noted that based on the MWSS’ 2020 report on projects, programs and activities, the detailed engineering and design phase of the dam project was 92.67 percent complete at the end of the year.The audit body said this was despite the MWSS’ failure to show proof that the preconditions set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under an environmental compliance certificate issued on Oct. 11, 2019 have been complied with. In 2019, the government secured a US$283.2 million loan deal from China to build the Kaliwa Dam, a flagship project of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program. China Energy Engineering Corporation Limited, a Chinese contractor, was selected to build the dam. Its participation in the project has been criticized as a violation of Philippine procurement laws and the Constitution that mandates a preference for Filipino contractors and workers who are equally if not more than qualified. A BRI primer released by the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said China's participation in the project reflects the Chinese government's commitment to support Duterte's infrastructure program through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But China's investments have attracted suspicion from many sectors because of its military buildup in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). China-funded projects like the Kaliwa Dam are tagged for potentially undermining the country's sovereignty. The COA report has revived controversies surrounding the dam project. The dam was widely opposed as it would displace an estimated 1,465 families of the Dumagat-Remontado indigenous peoples (IPs) in Rizal and Quezon. When the contract documents about the dam were released in 2019, civil society groups warned they contained provisions that favor China. A provision states that Chinese laws will be used to resolve potential disputes that may arise regarding the dam project. A former legislator also criticized that a Chinese contractor was hired for the project. Numerous Catholic bishops in the Philipines issued a statement expressing concern that the project will mainly benefit Chinese investors instead of the common good.