Tell it to SunStar: Water comes from forests, not dams

Haribon Foundation

AMID ongoing contentions about the controversial Kaliwa Dam, the solution to the water crisis is right in our midst – the restoration of Philippine forests.

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 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.”

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

The EIS reported that 67 species found in the watershed area and along the tunnel alignment are listed under the IUCN’s 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.

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.

While the EIS report submitted by the MWSS in 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 will not only submerge their homes but will also impact our daily survival once they go extinct.

We continue to call on the Government to strongly uphold the existing environmental laws that protect our biodiversity and cultural assets as well as the procurement policy that promote the ideals of good governance and transparency to all its branches.

Undertake cost-effective, sustainable, and nature-based solutions such as the restoration of our forests in Angat, La Mesa and existing watersheds, rehabilitation of existing water reservoirs, and strengthening of efficient water distribution systems and facilities.