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Senator Leila de Lima has urged the Congress to look into reported deficiencies and other irregularities flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA), including the failure to obtain the consent of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the construction of the China-funded Kaliwa Dam.

In filing Senate Resolution 578, De Lima said the people most affected by the said project are the local Dumagat-Remontado IPs who are facing dislocation and displacement from their ancestral domains and the possible dilution of their cultural identities and way of life.

“The social, cultural, environmental, and economic costs of the Kaliwa Dam Project appear to outweigh its purported benefits yet the government remains steadfast in its commitment to push forward without regard for the issues and controversies that have recently surfaced,” she said.

“These irregularities cast doubt on the validity and legality of implementation of the project and there is a need to investigate these issues and determine once and for all the viability of the Kaliwa Dam Project and the impacts it will have on its primary stakeholders,” she added.

The New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project is one of several projects being pursued by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) under its Water Security Plan for 2018-2023.

The project is expected to provide redundancy of water source and augment supply from Angat Dam and help prevent water shortage problems for the ever-growing population of Metro Manila.

Since 85 percent of the project will be financed through a loan from China, leading experts warned about the onerous terms of the deal as a “debt trap” which could force the Philippine government to surrender its patrimonial assets to China should it default on its payments.

“Despite its purported benefits, issues and controversies have surrounded the project since its inception,” said De Lima

In an audit observation memorandum dated June 10, 2019, the COA highlighted several irregularities in the awarding of the contract for construction of the Kaliwa Dam, including, among others, the failure of the technical working group (TWG) of the MWSS to observe proper bidding and vetting procedures before it awarded the project to China Energy Engineering Corp. (CEEC) in December 2018.

In its 2019 Annual Audit Report on the MWSS released earlier in September, the COA once again raised issues regarding the Kaliwa Dam Project over the issuance of a notice to proceed (NTP), which included “deficiencies” in some of the requirements related to consent from affected indigenous peoples

De Lima said that the COA findings are altogether alarming because they indicate that the consent of the IPs was ill-obtained and did not follow standard operating procedure required by law.

“Unfortunately, these incidents of fraudulent compliance with the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) requirement are not uncommon,” she said.

“Unscrupulous persons, and in some cases even State agents, made use of devious and unlawful methods aimed at obtaining FPIC of indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) in order to evict them from their ancestral lands,” she said.

“The situation of indigenous peoples worldwide has been described as that of centuries’ worth of deprivation, assimilation, and genocide. Deprivation comes in terms of rights, specifically, the non-recognition of the right to traditionally-owned and managed land, territories and resources, in addition to development,” De Lima added.

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