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Catholic bishops in Philippines oppose $240m Kaliwa Dam

A major dam planned in the Philippines to collect water for Manila has been opposed by the country’s Catholic bishops.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to halt construction of Kaliwa Dam in Quezon Province, which will be funded by China as a privately financed partnership, and built by Chinese contractor, China Energy Engineering Group (CEEC).

The dam will erode biodiversity in the Sierra Madre mountains to the detriment of the indigenous Dumagat-Remontados peoples, they said.

They join other civic rights and environmental groups opposing the dam, such as the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, Freedom from Debt Coalition, and the Philippine Movement for Climate Change.

The $240m (12.2 billion peso) project includes a 27.7km, 4-metre-diameter tunnel under mountains to convey the water to Manila.

It would give Manila millions more litres of water a day.

The Philippines’ capital currently relies on another dam, Angat, for nearly all its water, and shortfalls are forecast.

The 60-metre-high Kaliwa Dam would flood around 290 hectares in a natural park, wildlife sanctuary and game preserve.

Local people will have to be resettled for the scheme. Construction is due to begin this year. 

"The Church is not against development as long as it does not sacrifice the ‘common good’ in the name of progress," said Bishop Romulo Valles of Davao, reports Manilastandard.net.

"The ongoing Kaliwa Dam project of the government, in the guise of providing water to Metro Manila, is to our mind against inclusive development," he added.

The bishops said the government should seek experts’ advice on a more appropriate solution to water shortages in Manila.

"We, therefore, call on the government agencies concerned and other proponents of the Kaliwa Dam project to stop its implementation," the CBCP’s statement said.

"For the sake of the common good, we strongly recommend that ecologically sustainable alternatives be carefully considered."

In 2018, 51 Catholic bishops and four priests expressed support to a pastoral letter titled "No to Kaliwa Dam, Yes to Alternative Sources of Water" and signed by the bishops of Infanta, Quezon.

Image: Scene from the Sierra Madre mountain rage, the Philippines (Richardsmarcelo/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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