No looming water shortage, top MWSS officials assure

September 01, 2018 News

“There is no looming water shortage and we will always uphold the best interest of the people.”

This was jointly announced by Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Chairman Franklin J. Monteverde and Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco in the Water Challenge Forum the other day organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines even as they reassured the customers of adequate supply of potable water in the coming years over reports that Metro Manila may experience water shortage in 2021 before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.

The two MWSS officials allayed the fears of the public in response to a statement made by Manila Water chief operating officer Geodino Carpio that the non-approval of water treatment Laguna East Bay project may result in water shortage by 2021.

Under the Duterte administration, MWSS is on a “catch-up mode in terms of creating new water sources following more than 30 years of not developing major water supply projects to address the growing demand in Metro Manila due to population growth and development.”

At present, the MWSS has continued several water infrastructure projects started by the past administration to ensure water security in several areas, namely the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project and the Angat Water Security Projects, with the latter aimed at strengthening Angat Dam in case a 7.2- magnitude earthquake occurs thus ensuring water availability.

Another major project in the pipeline is the Kaliwa Dam construction of which is set to commence once the MWSS Board of Trustees gives its approval to the winning bidder as recommended by the Bids and Awards Committee. The project is expected to be completed by 2023, one year after Duterte ends his term.

“While we respect the opinion of Mr. Carpio, it is best for Manila Water to properly present its P15-billion Laguna East Bay Project that can produce additional 250 mld water as part of the overall water security and sustainability program for the East Zone instead of making his personal analysis on the overall costing of the P12.2 billion Kaliwa Dam Project that is expected to produce additional 650 mld,” Velasco said.

In a meeting the other day, Manila Water president and CEO Ferdinand M. dela Cruz and Carpio informed the MWSS chief that Manila Water fully supports the construction of the Kaliwa Dam and that the Laguna Lake East Bay Project has been further reduced to P13.5 billion from P15 billion.

“We welcome any new water source projects such as the Laguna Lake East Bay but the MWSS position is always to strike a balance between the overall cause and effect on any business development and the interest of the consuming public who will eventually shoulder the expected increase in water rates,” Velasco said. 

According to Velasco, MWSS maintains that in the long run, it is cheaper to construct new dams than maintain and operate water quality from Laguna Lake due to its turbidity, a reality shared by Carpio himself.

In the Water Challenge Forum and in last week’s MAP Forum on Water Sustainability, both Monteverde and Administrator Velasco disclosed that MWSS has water infrastructure project proposals that can be completed and yield results from three to five years based on engineering estimates. These projects involve less expensive and doable new water sources for Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces to include Pampanga and Tarlac and will ensure water security for the next 10, 25 or even 50 years.

The untapped and water wastage from Angat can be fully maximized to produce at least 1,200 mld that can be equally divided among the three MWSS concessionaires. This translates to 400 mld per concessionaire. Demand in Manila Water’s concession area is reportedly growing at 40 mld to 50 mld every year. Another project is the Bayabas Dam Project in Doña Remedios, Trinidad, Bulacan which could produce 250 mld corollary to the Bustos Dam and complement as flood mitigation and even irrigation in Bulacan. Also being considered is the Candaba Multi-Purpose Impounding Dam that could serve as a flood control, irrigation and even eco-tourism for Pampanga. The Candaba project can easily produce 500 mld of potable water for the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Tarlac. While this is outside MWSS territory, it would be a good trade off with NIA for the 21 cms from Angat.

These so-called ABC projects have a potential of producing a combined 1,950 mld capacity to complement the existing capacity of Angat Dam. Aside from the ABC projects, Oscar Violago and his partner Enrique Razon have submitted a proposal for the construction of a 82-meter dam in Montalban primarily to help mitigate flooding in the province of Rizal through a PPP scheme. If given the green light, a new Montalban Dam or much improved Wawa Dam is also expected to deliver at least 500 mld.Manila Water president Dela Cruz and COO Carpio had already expressed their support for the new water projects being pushed by MWSS.

This article was originally published on Manila Standard Philippines on September 1, 2018.