By Argyll Geducos and Madelaine Miraflor
President Duterte has ordered private concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad to release water from the Angat Dam effective Friday in a bid to address the ongoing shortage.
“The President is directing the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to demand from the Manila Water Company, Inc., Maynilad Water Services, Inc., and other responsible offices the release of water from Angat Dam by noon time today, March 15, good for 150 days, in order to supply the affected areas in Metro Manila and deliver, as well as distribute sufficient water to the residents thereof,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“Failure to act or comply with this directive, the President will personally go to them and make the responsible officers account for such failure,” Panelo added as he stressed that President Duterte is “aware and concerned” of the plight of Metro Manila residents due the present water shortage.
Residents in certain areas in Metro Manila, particularly those living in the service areas of Manila Water, are experiencing limited water supply reportedly because of the critically low level of water at La Mesa Dam.
Quezon City, Pasig City and Mandaluyong City are the most affected areas by the water shortage.
Panelo had earlier raised the possibility that the water shortage experienced by Metro Manila residents is just “artificial.”
He also said that he read about how Maynilad is not facing the same problems as Manila Water when both concessionaires get their supply from the Angat Dam is currently at normal water level. Angat Dam discharges water to Ipo Dam onto La Mesa Dam.
“I said it could be just inefficiency, mismanagement. In that case, it’s only an artificial shortage because if the source is full and another concessionaire is also full, why is the other one not having problems?” he said Thursday.
Panelo also said that Manila Water can be held accountable if claims about an artificial water crisis end up being true.
“Of course, the one who is at fault, we will make sure they will be held accountable,” he said.
But MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty said the water shortage being felt now in some areas in Metro Manila is not a result of sabotage on the part of the government and its concessionaires – Manila Water and Maynilad.
“There is a theory going around that it’s about the bypass valve [being closed] or that this is sabotage. The issue is [if there is sabotage] where will you hide the water? Are you telling me that they draw away the water? If we draw it away, it will flood somewhere,” Ty said.
“There’s no concerted effort to sabotage,” he added.
‘All the gates are open’
Ty was referring to the allegation that MWSS had earlier closed the bypass valve, which is only capable of releasing 4,000 million liters per day (mld), to only allow Maynilad to withdraw water from Angat Dam. To be specific, Maynilad gets a bigger allocation of about 2,400 mld from Angat, while Manila Water has an allocation of 1600 mld. But Manila Water’s demand has already grown to 1,750 mld, forcing it to tap its reserves coming from La Mesa Dam.
“It’s always open because it is part of the system,” he added. “All the waterways are open”.
Manila Water had earlier said its customers will continue to experience low pressure to no water service interruptions throughout the summer months as the water level at La Mesa Dam already reached critical level.
But unlike Manila Water, Maynilad doesn’t get water from La Mesa Dam and sources its supply mainly from Angat Dam and Ipo Dam, which is why the latter has not yet issued scheduled supply interruptions.
Right now, Manila Water has been ordered to fast-track the commissioning of a new water treatment facility in Cardona, Rizal, construction of which has been delayed for several months.
The facility should soon contribute as much as 30 mld to the company’s water supply, and another 50 mld by the end of this month.
By August, Manila Water should be able to fully utilize the plant at 100 mld capacity.
Ty said Manila Water’s inability to finish on time the Cardona facility is partly to blame for the water shortage it is experiencing now, as well as the company’s failure to design an effective demand simulation.
Geodino Carpio, Manila Water Chief Operating Officer, had earlier said that one of the reasons the demand for its water blew up during the past days is because its announcement caused panic among its concession.
What happened is Manila Water announced supply interruptions in some parts of its concession area, but its customers from other areas also started saving water. Hence, the demand rose unexpectedly.
Moving forward, Ty said Manila Water was already told to stabilize the supply by this month, and then normalize it by April.
There is now a cross-border water-sharing agreement between Maynilad and Manila Water that is being worked out. This should allow Manila Water to tap the excess water supply of Maynilad.
Ty said there is also a need to revisit the plan for the country to establish a ‘Department of Water’, which will help the government hold concessionaires more accountable for their shortcomings.
Right now, MWSS has no mandate or authorization to issue fines and penalties to concessionaires.
On Thursday, MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said his agency will create an Executive Committee and Technical Working Group to put on track all solutions to water security, sewerage, and other related issues.
“I wish to assure the public that there will be enough and sufficient water to supply the future needs of the 20 million residents in metropolis and nearby provinces serviced by its three concessionaires in the next 10 to 15 years,” Velasco said.
Velasco, who is one of the directors of the Asian Water Council (AWC) Board of Council, said too many years have been wasted in the past with no major water infrastructure projects undertaken. At present, that is no longer the case.
“It’s only over the last two years under this administration that serious efforts have been put in place to push for major water flagship projects such as the 600 mld Kaliwa Dam, the 500 mld Wawa Dam, the 800 mld to be sourced from unutilized water from Angat-Norzagaray, the 350 mld from Bayabas Dam, as well as 500 mld from Laguna Lake,” he said.
“We are on a catch up mode as far as water supply source is concerned since our main source, which is the Angat Dam that supplies 96 percent of water to Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal, was built in 1967 and no major water source has been built since then except for some water supply projects from Laguna Lake by both Maynilad and Manila Water,” he added.
Among the important water supply projects is the Kaliwa Dam, a project started during the time of the late President Ferdinand Marcos but is only being implemented now.
This will provide 600 mld, of which 350 mld will be allocated for Manila Water and 250 mld for Maynilad. Another water source being developed is the Wawa Dam with 500 mld, and the ABC Projects which can supply 1,200 mld.
Laguna Lake is also being considered as a future water source for both Manila Water and Maynilad.
Aside from the creation of the Executive Committee and TWG, Velasco said he will call for a summit to craft a 50-Year Water Security and Used Water Master Plan for Metro Manila and its serviced areas.