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Quezon gov stands firm against Kaliwa dam project




Quezon Governor Danilo Suarez.

Quezon Governor Danilo Suarez has stood firm on his opposition to the building of the Kaliwa Dam in Infanta town.

Suarez boldly told members of Save Sierra Madre network, which also opposes construction of the dam, that he will prevent the P12-billion project of the government from pushing through as long as he is the province’s chief executive.

The governor warned that he will file the appropriate case to block the project if proponents insist on pushing through with it.

“I’m with you, I don’t like Kaliwa dam either. If you would continue Kaliwa Dam, I’d see you in court,” said Suarez.

Residents of Real, Infanta and General Nakar towns, collectively known as REINA, and indigenous peoples groups have opposed the construction of the dam, citing the tragic flash floods and mudslides that devastated their areas on 29 November 2004 and killed more than a thousand people.

Suarez met with the groups in Infanta when he conducted relief operations after Typhoon Ulysses hit the Polillo island group and the REINA area.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Quezon, headed by Vice Governor Samuel Nantes, passed a resolution on 27 November giving Suarez the authority to take necessary steps to stop the Kaliwa Dam project.

The resolution was approved by 11 of the 13 members of the provincial board presided by Nantes.

Meanwhile, Catholic church leaders in the province also renewed their opposition to the mega-dam project saying the fight was a matter of survival of the people.

Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Infanta said the Kaliwa Dam project would pose risks to lowland agricultural and fishing communities with a history of flash flooding.

The prelature, which covers the northern part of Quezon and the Aurora province, lies along the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and on the east of the vast Pacific Ocean. It is also home to thousands of Dumagats, an indigenous community in the highlands of Infanta.

“So you will understand that, by geography, our very survival depends on the care of our mountains, forests, rivers, protection of mangroves and seashores. We hope and pray that our people in this ‘Jubilee for the Earth’ will develop a new mindset and a paradigm shift in our care and use of the common home,” he said.

As this developed, Cortez prodded the government to look for alternative sources of water, such as watershed rehabilitation and improve existing dams and water facilities.