METROPOLITAN Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) expects to complete next month the required assemblies with indigenous communities of Quezon province, ahead of the other requirements for the construction of Kaliwa Dam.

In a statement Sunday, the agency said it was about to complete through the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) the community assemblies that form part of the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process for six clusters of IP communities in Quezon.

“Another FPIC process will be held for Rizal Province,” it said, referring to the compliance measure under Republic Act No. 8173 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Acts.

On Aug. 23, MWSS and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Environment Management Bureau (EMB) jointly held the first of a series of public hearings to evaluate the water agency’s mitigating measures to address possible disturbances in the affected communities of the Kaliwa Dam project.

The dam will be the new water source of MWSS’ two water concessionaires for Metro Manila — Manila Water Co., Inc. for the east zone and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. for the west zone. The two will equally share the water from the dam, which will bridge the Philippine capital’s supply deficit and reduce its dependence on Angat Dam.

The public hearing is in line with MWSS’ application for Kaliwa Dam’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC), the document that will pave the way for construction as it will affirm that the project will not cause a significant negative impact on the environment.

MWSS said the earlier hearings were “considered a success because the concerns of the main stakeholders, namely the indigenous peoples, farmers, pro-environment NGOs (nongovernment organizations), affected residents, have been heard and addressed particularly the project’s impacts on community health, welfare and the environment.”

It said a number of environmental public consultations have been held in the previous years but it was only on Friday that a joint consultation was conducted with DENR.

It said the hearing was “generally peaceful” but was marred by a walk-out allegedly by a group of Dumagat tribe members, who questioned the nine-day notice before the hearing. It said the group of mostly young boys dressed in local costume was accompanied by various NGOs opposing the construction of the dam.

MWSS said a notice of public hearing had been published thrice between Aug. 8 and 16. It said despite the presentation of proof of publication, the group did not return to the venue of the public hearing.

The next hearing will be on Aug. 27 at the Ynares covered courts on Magsaysay Ave. in Teresa, Rizal. Another hearing will be held on Aug. 28 in Infanta, Quezon, and Sept. 2 in Tanay, Rizal.

“MWSS will submit an assessment report on the results of the public hearings and the DENR-EMB will then decide of MWSS’ application,” the agency said. — Victor V. Saulon