COA flags ₱12-billion Kaliwa Dam project for absence of environmental compliance, consent from IPs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 11) - The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) after it issued a notice to proceed (NTP) to Kaliwa Dam project’s Chinese contractor, despite its pending compliance with environmental guidelines and failure to secure consent from affected indigenous peoples (IP).

In the 2019 annual audit report on MWSS, COA said the water agency has issued an NTP to the contractor China Energy Engineering Company, Inc. for the detailed engineering and design and construction of Kaliwa Dam despite the noncompliance with the requirements under the loan agreement.

The New Centennial Water Source- Kaliwa Dam project is a ₱12.2-billion deal seeking to build a water reservoir bordering Rizal and Quezon provinces.

Included in the preconditions of the loan agreement is the receipt of copy of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

State auditors said the ECC has 17 environmental management conditions and four general conditions. It noted that the following conditions must be complied first by the contractor before implementing the project.

Furthermore, the ECC stated that no project shall commence until the proponent has complied with the requirements of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, and the necessary certifications from the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples, including the Certificate of Precondition (CP) after the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) is obtained from affected indigenous cultural communities or groups.

In the report, the MWSS responded that the CP attesting to the FPIC, is still a “work-in-progress" and the memorandum of agreement with the concerned IPs in Quezon and Rizal are underway.

The MWSS also said that it has formed an environmental unit to ensure the compliance with the conditions in Environment Impact Statement and ECC as it is expected to submit a Compliance Monitoring Report to Environmental Management Bureau.

However, COA pointed out that there were no documents presented that will prove the compliance with requisites stated in the conditional ECC, nor reports on the status of compliance with documentary requirements.

“Such failure of the agency to produce proofs that it has satisfied all the requirements under the ECC renders the issuance of the NTP questionable,” stated COA.

Dubious consent

COA also noted that the Resolusyon ng Pagpayag (RP) of the Dumagat/Remontado Tribe of General Naka, Quezon, submitted by MWSS, showed deficiencies which cast doubts on its validity.

In the submitted resolution by MWSS, state auditors said it does not mention the name of the tribal leaders or elders who would attest to the identity of the IP member who signed it. The resolution also does not indicate the date when the purported IPs signed the document.

COA also noted the resolution was not notarized.

With this finding, the state auditors said the dubious and questionable character of the consent from IP members is “bolstered by the fact” that during the Senate hearing on Jan; 22, 2020, when several stakeholders and groups from various sectors including tribal groups, raised concerns over the legitimacy and representation of the indigenous were disputed.

“Within these groups include residents who argued that they were neither consulted nor informed on the implementation of the project. The same group also claimed that they were disregarded in the dialogues conducted during the community assemblies,” said COA. “They even questioned the eligibility of the members who signed the IP.”

In response, MWSS said that the FPIC for the Kaliwa Dam project was hampered by protest staged by different interest groups. It added that the agency and NCIP are in the process of securing the CP through the conduct of two FPICs among IP communities in General Nakar, Quezon and in Tanay, Rizal.

In December, President Rodrigo Duterte promised that the government would pay and relocate affected residents near the project sites of Kaliwa Dam and the Wawa Dam.