Residents, including tribe, oppose China-funded Kaliwa Dam construction

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — Residents including an indigenous group living near the site of China-funded Kaliwa Dam in Infanta, Quezon said Thursday they are strongly opposing the project.

Members of the Dumagat tribe residing at the foot of Sierra Madre mountains in Tanay, Rizal fear that they may lose their ancestral domain because of the dam that is seen as an alternative source of water for Metro Manila.

Octavio Pranada, leader of the tribe, estimates that the project may leave about 11,000 of its members homeless.

Pranada fears that the water from the dam will destroy their farmlands, homes, and places of worship.

With this, he said they will do the best to oppose the project and refuse any offer of relocation.

"Kasi nabubuhay po kami sa bundok talaga, sa sariwang hangin, sa tubig, doon po talaga kami sanay.. pag dadalhin po kami sa Metro Manila, talagang baka doon po kami mamatay lahat," Pranada said.

[Translation: We live in the mountain. We are used to fresh air, water, so if we are brought to Metro Manila, we might all die there.]

Residents of Barangay Laiban in the same town are also against the project.

Aurelio Gacosta, the barangay captain, hopes the government will "wake up" and won't pursue the project.

Gacosta estimates around 2,000 residents of the community will be affected by the project.

"Nauunawaan naman namin na kinakapos ng tubig ang Metro Manila... ibig sabihin, bubuhayin nila ang mga tao sa Metro Manila, kami naman ang kanilang papatayin dito sa bulubundukin kung itutuloy yung dam," he said.

[Translation: We understand that Metro Manila lacks water, does that mean they will save people in Metro Manila while killing us in the mountains.]

"Habang kami ay may buhay dito, hindi kami basta-basta papayag na paalisin dito," Gacosta added.

[Translation: While we still live here, we will not allow to be displaced.]

The government earlier stressed the importance of the construction of Kaliwa Dam amid the ongoing water interruptions affecting thousands of residents in some portions of Metro Manila and Rizal.

READ: Finance chief: Water crisis should prompt faster construction of China-funded dam

The P18.7-billion project will be funded through an official development assistance from China, according to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.

In November, China pledged around P12 billion for the project through loans with low interest rates.