By DANIEL ASIDO
with reports from Jonas Alpasan
MANILA – As part of the celebration of Earth Day, Filipino environmental defenders are calling anew on the Philippine government to stop the planned construction of the controversial Kaliwa Dam.
“The theme for this year’s Earth Day is ‘Invest in Our Planet’. Concurrently, the business sector should also divest in environmentally damaging projects. This includes large dams such as the Kaliwa Dam in the Philippines where big money is being spent on damning the environment and the people,” Lia Mai Torres, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns, told Bulatlat in a text message.
The China-financed P12.2 billion ($218.7 million) Kaliwa Dam is a flagship project of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program and is set to displace around 1,400 families belonging to the Agta-Dumagat-Remontados tribe of Rizal and Quezon, according to Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas.
This has long been facing broad opposition as it threatens the vital ecosystem and biodiversity of the 540-kilometer Sierra Madre Mountain range. Last month, Dumagats of Quezon and Rizal provinces marched to Mendiola to denounce the construction of the controversial dam.
There is also an ongoing online petition by National Land Coalition in the Philippines that seeks to stop the dam’s construction. This has already reached more than 200,000 signatures.
Environmental group Kalikasan also decried the continuing construction of Kaliwa Dam despite opposition from Indigenous Dumagat communities.
The group also cited other so-called development projects that can be detrimental to the environment. These include large-scale mining and reclamation projects.
“All of these projects had been given the heads up by the Marcos Jr. administration, which has only endeavored to continue long-standing policies of environmental destruction and systematized human rights violations,” said Kalikasan.
Meanwhile, Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) also called out Marcos Jr. over his supposed pronouncements on climate change.
“He has a lot to say about climate change – that this is his priority but what is he really doing? (He is favoring) reclamation, mining, mega dams, big plantations, among others,” Mitzi Jonelle Tan, spokesperson of YACAP, said in a statement.
The group said these projects “exacerbate the country’s vulnerability to the climate crisis, especially coastal communities that are already among those hardest hit by sea-level rising, storm surges, and super typhoons.”
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) said in February 2023 that the construction of the dam is already at 22 percent and is set to commence operations by 2027.
This story was produced with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.