Philippine bishops oppose China-funded dam project

US$226-million project will destroy biodiversity sustaining tribal group, they say
Philippine bishops oppose China-funded dam project

A person cools off with water from a reservoir at the Wawa Dam in Montalban in Rizal province, east of Manila. Catholic bishops in the Philippines have backed calls for a Chinese-funded dam project in Quezon province to be halted. (Photo: Noel Celis/AFP)  

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has backed calls to stop the building of a dam that will be funded by loans from China.

In a Feb. 26 statement, the country's Catholic bishops said the project is destructive to nature and would cost the government a lot of money.

Conference president Bishop Romulo Valles of Davao said the Church is not against development as long as it does not sacrifice the "common good" in the name of progress.

The bishop, who signed the statement on behalf of the conference, said the government project "in the guise of providing water to Metro Manila is to our mind against inclusive development."

He said the bishops oppose the project because it will destroy the biodiversity of the Sierra Madre Mountains, home to the Dumagat-Remontados tribe.

"We, therefore, call on the government agencies concerned and other proponents of the Kaliwa Dam project to stop its implementation," read the bishops' statement.

It called for a “proper review" of the project to correct its flaws.

"For the sake of the common good, we strongly recommend that ecologically sustainable alternatives be carefully considered," added the bishops.

The US$226.4-million project that will be built in Quezon province, south of Manila, has been in the pipeline for three decades.

Expected to be completed by 2023 if started this year, the dam is supposed to complement an existing one that supplies 96 percent of Manila’s water needs.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System noted that Kaliwa Dam will add 34 million liters of water daily to areas in the capital and surrounding provinces.

The project, however, faces vigorous opposition from church and environmental groups.

In 2018, at least 51 Catholic bishops and four priests signified their support for a pastoral letter signed by the bishop of Infanta titled “No to Kaliwa Dam, Yes to Alternative Sources of Water."

Aside from fears that the dam would inundate about 300 hectares of forest land in the watershed, critics warned that the project funded by loans from China could be a “debt trap."

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