By Alexis Romero, March 22 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to MWSS/Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Friday vowed to comply with the rules governing freedom of information (FOI) after some groups demanded that the Duterte administration release the contracts of the controversial Kaliwa Dam project.

Groups opposed to the China-funded dam have sent letters to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. requesting the disclosure of information related to the project.

The groups invoked the FOI to seek the release of the preferential buyer’s credit loan agreement between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the Export-Import Bank of China and the commercial contract between the MWSS and China Energy Engineering Corporation.

Opposition senatorial candidate Chel Diokno, the lead counsel of the groups, said the public would not know whether the deals contain “onerous provisions” until the agreements are made public.

Medialdea said the administration would abide by the rules of the FOI, an initiative embodied in Executive Order No. 2 signed by Duterte in 2016.

“This administration early on has made it clear that it will be transparent. We will abide by the FOI rules in place. I don’t think it is a matter of discretion if the document is covered by the FOI and the procedure is followed,” the executive secretary said in a text message.

The P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam will be funded through an official development assistance from China. Some local officials and civil society groups are opposed to the construction of the dam, saying the project would displace residents, cause floods and damage the biodiversity of Sierra Madre.

The signatories of the FOI letter to Medialdea and Locsin were Apolinar Derilo of Task Force Sierra Madre for Balance Ecology; Fr. Peter Montalliana of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance; Conrado Vargas of Prelature of Infanta-Community Organization of the Philippines; Marcelino Tena of Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta/Dumagat-Remontado na Binabaka at Ipinagtatanggol ang Lupang Ninuno; Bishop Bernardino Cortez of the Prelature of Infanta; Oscar Catilo of the PAMB- Presidential Proclamation 1636 and Sandiwaan Laban sa Kaliwa Dam Coordinating Group, and Demosthenes Raynera of the Tribal Center for Development.