Duterte promises to pay locals displaced by Wawa, Kaliwa Dam construction

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President Rodrigo Duterte promises compensation for all natives that will be displaced by the Wawa and Kaliwa dam projects, saying it's the "last resort" to provide water in Metro Manila.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 30) — President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to pay and relocate locals living near the sites of the planned Wawa and Kaliwa dams as he pushes for the construction of the two major water projects.

"I can give you a little bit of elbow room to move. Itong mga nakatira doon [those living there], of course they are all natives and they are trying to delay the project. We need water," Duterte said in a speech in Digos City on Monday. "Without Wawa and Kaliwa Dam... this will be the last resort to have water for Manila. I will order them to go ahead."

READ: 10 million signatures sought to convince Duterte to stop Kaliwa Dam work

The New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project is a ₱12.2-billion deal meant to build an integrated reservoir bordering Rizal and Quezon. The project was meant to be started this year with funding and technical support from the Chinese government.

The Kaliwa Dam has been approved by the government under the Aquino administration, but construction has not started. Environment groups such as Haribon have called to abandon this 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.

READ: Japanese firm pushes for alternative to China-funded Kaliwa dam

Meanwhile, the Wawa Bulk Water Supply Project had just been proposed by businessman Enrique Razon, the fourth richest man in the country, in March. The ₱20-billion project will be privately funded, and is one of the newest additions to the government's list of flagship infrastructure projects just this November.

Metro Manila, the most densely populated area in the country, has had to contend with supply interruptions this 2019 amid limited water in the Angat reservoir.

To get the projects going, Duterte vouched that the government will pay natives who will be displaced to make way for the dikes and tunnels that will be built to distribute water from these dams. The state will also provide for relocation, the President added.

The Wawa Dam project is eyed to supply up to 500 million liters per day (MLD) by 2025, while the Kaliwa Dam should be able to churn out at least 600 MLD by 2024.

Duterte went on to pin the blame for delayed projects on private firms, particularly losing bidders who run to the courts just to halt the implementation of projects by securing a temporary restraining order (TRO).

"We will pay the natives and we will relocate them. But for the courts to issue itong mga TRO, sabi ko nga, do not make it to the point na sabihin ko, 'ignore them...' After all, pera-pera lang din 'yan [it's all about the money after all]," the chief executive said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra explained on Tuesday that Republic Act 8975 serves as the President's legal basis in asking courts not to stop major projects. The law passed in 2000 prohibits lower courts from issuing halt orders against government infrastructure projects to ensure "expeditious" implementation.

"That law is still in effect and provides the legal basis for the president’s recent statement on the kaliwa and wawa dam projects," Guevarra told reporters, adding that Duterte was aware about the separation of the Executive and the Judiciary.

The President went on to revive his public rants against water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water, even saying that their supply contracts with government should have been "null and void" from the start as they violate local laws. He added that the two companies could face estafa (swindling) and economic sabotage for the onerous provisions in their concession deals.

"I want the billionaires inside the prison. Makatikim talaga 'yang mga y*** na 'yan [I will make sure that those fools will get a taste of it]," Duterte added.

East zone concessionaire Manila Water is owned by the Ayala family, while west zone supplier Maynilad is run by the group of businessman Manny Pangilinan and the Consunjis' DMCI Holdings.