Japanese firm pushes for alternative to China-funded Kaliwa dam

By Carolyn Bonquin

A Japan-based company on Monday asked the government to revisit a safer and cheaper option to increase water supply to Metro Manila that will tap the same resources under a Chinese-funded dam project.

Osaka-based infrastructure firm Global Utility Development Corporation (GUDC) asked President Rodrigo Duterte to push through with its proposed construction of a low-level dam in Kaliwa River.

This comes after the Duterte administration awarded the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWSP) Kaliwa dam to a Chinese construction company.

GUDC said compared to the dam project, the weir or low-level water intake will address safety concerns and will be more economical for the government.

What is the Kaliwa Weir Intake Project?

Under GUDC’s proposal, a seven-meter wall will be constructed in the middle of Kaliwa River in Tanay Rizal near the Infanta, Quezon border. It will work like a barrier to raise the water level.

Unlike bigger dams, water would spill over the wall and flow to an aqueduct that will divert water to a treatment plant in Tanay, Rizal. where water concessionaires may tap up to 550 million liters of water daily.

At seven meters high, the Japanese project is much smaller than the 73-meter high dam awarded to the Chinese firm. Its capacity is 50 million liters lower than the NWSCP Kaliwa Dam.

“We cannot understand why MWSS wants such high dam, we need only 600 MLD (million liters per day). It does not make common sense,” GUDC chief operating officer Toshikazu Nomura said.

Putting up a lower dam which would allow river to flow also ensures the safety of nearby communities, GUDC vice president for business George Campos explained.

Campos said their project does not pose environmental threats as this will be constructed far from the fault line. No one will be displaced or inundated since the water level would only increase by seven meters, below the residential area.

GUDC will also pay for the whole of construction. All it needs is a go signal from the Philippine government

What happened to the Japanese’s proposal?

GUDC has signed an agreement with MWSS in 2009. Construction would only supposedly take less than a year. But Campos said the changes in national leadership as well as the MWSS administration have pushed back its implementation.

If the construction began then, Campos said Metro Manila would not have a water supply problem.

Meanwhile, Nomura said they submitted a proposal to the government in 2017, but the project did not move forward because someone “pressured” the MWSS.

“We submitted our proposal in September 2017, and then they found this is accepted but somebody in your government gave pressure and that’s why MWSS could move at all. On the other hand, the new centennial project started one and a half year ago,” Nomura said.

Presidential spokesperson Sal Panelo said concerned government agencies are looking into the proposal.

“I think every proposal should be considered. The objective should always be the welfare of the people. The most beneficial, the most advantageous to the govt and to the people should be the primordial consideration,” he said in a media briefing on Monday.

On the other hand, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Reynaldo Velasco said the government’s arrangement with China on Kaliwa dam has been sealed.

Ito ay na-bid na, gagawin na. Hindi na yan pupuwede, lalong made-delay. Naka-commit na ang gobyerno. Nagkapirmahan na tayo. This is a done deal,” he said.

[Translation: This has been bid. It cannot be further delayed. The government has committed and signed. This is a done deal.]

Velasco also said they could not entertain GUDC’s proposal in 2017 because the Kaliwa Dam project is already underway.

He also denied being pressured into the decision.

“I don’t think the board would ever be pressured. There’s no such pressure,” he said.

An official of the MWSS also said the two projects cannot be compared. GUDC’s weir cannot hold as much water as the dam, and it would be a problem when the dry season comes.

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