Gov't targets construction of China-funded Kaliwa Dam by July

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18) — The Duterte administration hopes to begin building the China-funded Kaliwa Dam by July this year as an alternate source to maintain water security in Metro Manila and nearby areas, the water regulator said Monday.

The House Committee on Metro Manila Development opened its inquiry Monday on the water crisis in Metro Manila. Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Reynaldo Velasco presented long-term solutions to address supply; one of them, the construction of Kaliwa dam in Infanta, Quezon.

Velasco said construction will begin as soon as the engineering design is complete. He said the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa dam project phase 1 will take four to five years to complete, but government has asked the Chinese constructors for a shorter period, say, two years. A 27-kilometer tunnel will connect the water source from General Nakar-Infanta in Quezon to a water treatment plant in Antipolo-Teresa in Rizal.

The first phase of the dam project is expected to provide 600 million liters of water per day (MLD) to be equally shared between the two Metro Manila concessionaires, Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. Phase 2 at the Laiban-Kanan Dam will provide 1,800 MLD. But Velasco said this is still under review because of its impact on 4,800 informal settlers. Residents including the Dumagat Tribe living near the site in Infanta, Quezon strongly opposed the project.

A Japan-based company on Monday asked the government to revisit a safer and cheaper option to increase water supply to Metro Manila that will tap the same resources under a Chinese-funded dam project. But Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Reynaldo Velasco said the PH-China deal on Kaliwa Dam is a "done deal."

"Ito ay na-bid na, gagawin na. Hindi na yan pupuwede, lalong made-delay. Naka-commit na ang gobyerno. Nagkapirmahan na tayo. This is a done deal," he said.

[Translation: The bidding was done. The project will be started and reviewing it will cause more delay. The government is already committed. This is a done deal.]

Under the official development assistance (ODA) grant from China signed in November 2018, China pledged to provide ₱12.2 billion or around 64 percent of the ₱18.7-billion project cost for the Kaliwa dam.

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo questioned the shift in the funding mechanism from a public-private partnership (PPP) to an ODA grant from China. She said that under the PPP, the country would not shell out any amount.

"Ang 85 percent utang natin sa China, 15 percent tayo iyong gagastos. So, hindi ko talaga alam ... kung bakit mas gugustuhin nating umutang kaysa wala tayong gagastusin," she was quoted saying in "BISErbisyong Leni" on Sunday.

[Translation: The 85 percent is a loan from China. We will shoulder 15 percent. So I don't understand ... why we would opt to borrow money than not spend anything.]