Construction of China-funded Kaliwa Dam eyed by July – Panelo

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Metro Manila consumers will have enough water supply for the year while future demand will be met by the construction of the new Kaliwa Dam, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 3) — The China-funded Kaliwa Dam is scheduled to break ground by July or August this year, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Tuesday.

The controversial dam project, which would build an integrated reservoir bordering Rizal and Quezon provinces using Chinese money, has been long delayed. It will augment supply from the only source of water for Metro Manila - Angat dam in Bulacan province.

"What I heard last night is they are assuring us that there will be no water problem. They are doing something about it," Panelo said, citing updates given by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) during the Cabinet meeting Monday night.

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The project is still in the process of acquiring lots where the tunnel system that would bring raw water to processing and distribution plants as of September 2019, according to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. Public dialogues have also been completed, while the project secured an environmental clearance certificate in August last year.

The Kaliwa Dam was approved by the government under the Aquino administration, but construction has not begun since. Environment groups such as Haribon have lobbied to abandon the project as it will cause "long-term, irreversible environmental damage to the Sierra Madre and its biodiversity" and displace the Dumagat indigenous tribes residing there.

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President Rodrigo Duterte earlier vouched that the government will pay natives who will be displaced to make way for the dikes and tunnels that will be built in the area. The state will also provide for relocation, he added.

Panelo added that the flagship construction project would provide sustained water flow in the coming years, as the Executive assured of enough supply this year.

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He said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu recently visited Angat dam to check its water level.

Millions of Metro Manila consumers had to face rotational water supply interruptions during summer last year as the dam's water level dipped. Water concessionaires have given early warnings that supply interruptions could happen again this year to manage limited supply. 

Both Maynilad and Manila Water are also in the middle of negotiations for a new concession agreement with the government, which officials said may be finalized in the middle of the year.