By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Senate Committee on Public Services will start probing Tuesday next week, March 19, the water crisis experienced in several cities of Metro Manila and Rizal.
Senator Grace Poe, committee chair, on Thursday said she has invited concerned government officials and representatives from the private water concessionaires in the legislative inquiry that sought to address the “sudden” shortage in water supply particularly in areas covered by the concessionaire Manila Water.
“Malaki ang dapat ieksplika ng Manila Water dito sa krisis na ito. Three weeks ago, walang abiso at hindi ramdam na magkukulang ang tubig. Tapos bigla na lang magigising ka na wala na? Tama ba naman ‘yon?” Poe said in a radio interview.
(Manila Water has a lot to explain on this crisis. Three weeks ago, there were no advisories and we did not feel that we would lack water supply. Then one day, we wake up without water anymore? Was that right?)
Poe questioned the why almost half of Metro Manila experienced water shortage when water level in Angat Dam which supplies more than 90 percent of the metropolis is still at normal level.
She said that as of 6 a.m. on March 14, water level at Angat Dam was at 199.63 meters, still far from the 180-meter critical mark.
Manila Water earlier pointed to the depleting water level in La Mesa Dam, the firm’s emergency water source, as the culprit behind the water shortage.
The firm also cited the dry spell for the diminishing water supply. Water level at La Mesa Dam was critical at 68.74 meters, its lowest in 21 years.
“Alam naman natin pagdating ng Marso, may El Niño man o wala, talagang madalang ang ulan… Hindi ba nila naisip na dadami ang tao? Andiyan naman ang tubig e. ‘Yun ay imprastraktura na pananagutan ng Manila Water. ‘Yun siguro ang ating iimbestigahan at tatanungin,” Poe said.
Aside from the reasons of ongoing water shortage, the public services panel would also look at the delay in completing projects such as a treatment plant in Cardona, Rizal “that would have addressed demand problems,” Poe said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III also aired concern over the water crisis in the metro. On Wednesday, he filed a resolution calling for the Senate inquiry on what he considered a “serious” problem.
“We want to know what’s wrong. What went wrong, what’s going on, and how did this happen? How it should not ever happen again,” Sotto told CNN Philippines Thursday.
The Senate chief also floated proposals for the adoption of water desalination to supply for the country’s water needs.
“Bakit ang Saudi Arabia, ang mga Middle East countries, ang lakas ng tubig? Napakaraming tubig? Tayo napaliligiran ng tubig eh ginawa nila, nag-desalination sila, mag-desalinate tayo rito kahit na mahal,” Sotto said.
Desalination is a process where salts and other minerals are separated from water to make it potable or viable for other uses.
Sotto said it is high time to invest in such technology than waste government money on “nonsense.” The Executive Department, he added, should step in and resolve the crisis.
In his Senate Resolution No.1028, Sotto also cited “the need to review the concession agreements”
“If left unresolved, the water crisis may bring more serious problems to the people and businesses in the affected areas, and may impact the country as a whole,” he warned.