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Water comes from forests, not dams-Haribon.

Amid ongoing contentions about the controversial Kaliwa Dam, environmental group Haribon Foundation reiterates that the solution to the water crisis is right in our midst-the restoration of Philippine forests.

Haribon emphasized that the water issue should be understood from the ridge-to-reef perspective that begins with where water comes from.

'Water comes from forests not from dams. Forests absorb water through their roots, releases it from their leaves through transpiration, then turns into rainwater together with water evaporated from oceans and other water bodies,' the group said.

The foundation cited that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), submitted by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has also recognized the significant role of forests in the global carbon cycle as carbon sinks of the land ecosystem, absorbing carbon dioxide and storing carbon in soils.

'Forests have an indispensable biodiversity value-not only does it supply goods for trade and subsistence, it also contributes to water cycle and groundwater withdrawal,' Haribon added.

Based on the government reforestation costing-particularly the National Greening Program-restoring 1 hectare of forest costs P16,450 for three years.

According to Haribon, this shows that only around P2.48 billion is needed to restore 150,000 hectares of forests in the country compared to the P12.2-billion loan from China that puts the Philippines at risk of environmental chaos and debt trap.

Threatened species

Haribon also cited that the EIS reported that 67 species found in the watershed area and along the tunnel alignment are listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species, four of which are critically endangered native tree species, such as yakal saplungan, bagtikan, white lauan and tanguile; endangered species such as narra; 13 vulnerable species including kamagong, hamindang and tanglin.

Various fauna species in the EIS report identified 69 species of birds-such as the yellow vented bulbul, the Philippine bulbul, chestnut munia, Luzon tarictic and rufous hornbill.

There are 13 mammalian species-including the short-nosed fruit bat, musky fruit bat, long-tongued nectar bat, rousette bats, pygmy roundleaf bat, Polynesian rat, long-tailed macaque, Asian palm civet, Northern Luzon giant cloud rat, wild boar, Philippine forest rat and the Oriental house rat.

A total of 15 herpeto-faunal species (nine reptiles and six amphibians) are recorded in the area-including the gecko, skink, cobra, Philippine brown rat snake, green tree skink, cuming's eared-skink, water monitor lizard, python and green snake.

The list of amphibians, include the Malayan freshwater turtle, Laguna de Bay frog, common tree frog, giant marine toad, Chinese softshelled turtle and Luzon-fanged frog.

'Their presence in the watersheds of Sierra Madre is a good indicator of balance in the ecology, food chain cycle and natural environmental process that humans benefit from daily,' Haribon said.

According to the foundation, while the EIS report submitted by the MWSS on September 2019 highlights the abundance of biodiversity in the area, it fails to respond to how it will establish and implement mitigating measures to address the impacts of structural development to the affected wildlife species.

The construction of the dam, said Haribon, will not only submerge their homes, but will also impact our daily survival once they go extinct.

Good governance

The group also cited the Commission on Audit's (COA) report on the Kaliwa Dam project as a 'negotiated contract.'

COA has since called on the MWSS to explain the bidding process it undertook that seemed to have favored the China Energy Engineering Corp. Ltd.

According to Haribon, the report is telling of the integrity of an institution, its potential impacts to the quality of infrastructure services, and the treatment toward social and environmental interventions.

Despite staunch opposition from various groups, the Kaliwa Dam project has recently received a green light from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Groups, including the Stop Kaliwa Dam Network, composed of environmental and Indigenous Peoples groups, criticize the issuance of the environmental compliance certificate that was said to bypass proper permission procedures from affected Indigenous Peoples communities.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 25, 2019
Words:740
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