BLESSINGS. Fr. Ramil Sabillo of the St. Joseph Husband of Mary Parish in Real, Quezon delivers a message after blessing the members of the Dumagat-Remontados tribe prior to a protest march against the construction of Kaliwa Dam on Sunday (Feb. 19, 2023). The marchers are hoping for an audience with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. about their concerns on the construction of the dam in General Nakar once they reach Malacañang on Feb. 23. (Courtesy of Stop Kaliwa Dam Network)

LUCENA CITY – Members of the Dumagat-Remontados tribe in Quezon province on Sunday debunked claims by proponents of the Kaliwa Dam project in General Nakar town that the massive infrastructure will affect just 15 families.

The tribespeople, who are now on the fifth day of their nine-day march toward Malacañang to air their opposition to the construction of the dam, said 200 families will be displaced by the project in Barangay Umiray.

On Sunday, more than 300 members of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) group left Barangay Llavac in Real, Quezon to continue their march toward Laguna.

Before setting off, they conducted a brief ceremony to remember those who died in the flash flood in Infanta, Quezon in November 2004, which killed nearly a thousand people, some 100 of whom were tribe members.

"The MWSS (Manila Waterworks and Sewerage Systems) claimed only 15 families will be affected by the dam. But with us in this march are representatives of more than 200 families,” said Conchita Calzado, spokesperson of the group.

Fr. Ramil Sabillo of the St. Joseph Husband of Mary Parish-Llavac in Real blessed the marchers before they left.

"DAM - Diyos ang Masusunod kasi kung hindi, Dali ang Mahihirap/Mamamayan (God's will shall prevail, otherwise, the people will suffer)," Sabillo said.

Once the dam overflows, lives and livelihoods in the lowland will be affected, he added.

A short program was also conducted when the marchers reached Famy, Laguna, where they were welcomed by environmental and youth groups that gave them goods and necessities.

The IPs started their protest march on Feb. 15 and are expecting to reach Malacañang grounds on Feb. 23, covering over 150 kilometers from General Nakar.

They said the construction of Kaliwa Dam will not only displace IP communities but they also have no assurance of relocation and livelihood.

The New Centennial Water Source - Kaliwa Dam Project is expected to start operations and generate 600 million liters per day of water by December 2026, according to the MWSS.

During the multi-stakeholder information forum on Feb. 1, MWSS administrator Leonor Cleofas said tunnel boring has begun from Teresa town to Morong town in Rizal province, covering 22 kilometers.

She said families who would be affected by the construction of the tunnel are being taken care of by concerned government agencies.

Elpidio Vega, chair of the MWSS Board of Trustees Justice previously said “studies have shown that the Kaliwa Dam is a viable option for preventing water shortage problems in the medium to long term.” (PNA)