Artificial water crisis?

"The stress is just too much."


Today is the third day that my family has been waterless. Per Manila Water’s schedules, my area should have water from 4:01 in the morning to 4:59 in the afternoon but not a drop of water came.

We tried ordering water from our usual source of drinking water but they also did not have water to sell. To survive, we needed to buy big containers and pails. We have to drive to my daughter’s house to get this most precious commodity.

Everyone in the household is mobilized. I am in charge of transferring the water from the pails to the big containers. Because all of us have work, we have to do this in the morning and when we are done, we are all tired yet we still have a full day ahead of us. I have missed an important commitment in the morning because of the lack of water.

The stress is too much.

We also reuse water for flushing and cleaning toilets. We now use paper plates to eat. We thought of just ordering food to save on water but we decided not to because we are unsure of the restaurants’ water source.

Yet, I know that hundreds of thousands may be in more difficult situation than us. For instance, hospitals need a lot of water for their patients and other health-related purposes. The National Kidney and Transplant Institute had to decrease their number of patients who need dialysis because of lack of water. Literally, lives are at stake here.

What really caused this water crisis?

First, El Niño was blamed. Summer has set in and the demand for water is higher. Naturally, people think that water is in short supply because of the absence of rain. However, this does not explain why only areas served by Manila Water are affected, and those getting water from Maynilad enjoy normal supply. El Niño does not discriminate.

A report from CNN Philippines belied allegations that there is water shortage. Its crew flew over Angat Dam and found that there is enough water there to supply Metro Manila for about 125 days, or until the end of summer. The report said that Angat presently holds almost 200 million liters of water and this level is normal. It is when it drops to 160 million liters that people should begin to worry. Both Manila Water and Maynilad source water from Angat Dam.

The problem is not supply but Manila Water’s infrastructure. There is enough water but it is unable to treat and deliver the water to consumers. The construction of its Cardona treatment facility has been delayed due to technical issues in pipe design and installation. This means that Manila Water is unable to treat the volume of water needed to supply its consumers. It has a deficit of 140 million liters of water daily. This facility could have added 50 million liters of water daily and is said to be operational by April.

Another project, the construction of another source of water, the Kaliwa Dam in Quezon Province has likewise been delayed. This was supposed to have begun during the last administration to be funded through Public-Private Partnership. However, when this administration took over, it stopped the bidding. Recently, the project, “New Centennial Water Source—Kaliwa Dam” was included in the loan agreement with China. In short, the Filipino people will owe China PhP18.7 billion for the construction of this dam, and a Chinese firm—China Engineering Corp. will build it.

The administration is now rushing the construction because according to Finance Secretary Dominguez, the dam can supply 600 million liters of water for Metro Manila and nearby areas.

The thing is, other reasons for the delay are legitimate and important. Indigenous peoples will be displaced from their ancestral lands in Sierra Madre, the environment will be severely harmed, and the dam will be constructed over the Infanta Fault Line which will put in danger the lives of around 100,000 people living in the covered areas. These are important considerations that government should very seriously look into.

While there is a need for new water sources, these should not be at the expense of our indigenous people’s rights, the environment, and people’s lives.

In relation with this water crisis, an interesting Facebook conversation went viral. MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty, in a post tried to explain the water shortage. One Angel Salazar in response said that Ty should order the opening of the bypass in La Mesa Dam to solve the ongoing problem. Salazar claimed that he worked for MWSS from 1982 to 2012 and that he was updated on things at the MWSS. He said that a friend of his designed the bypass and that he, “conceptualized its need to have it constructed.”

Salazar alleged that the closure of the bypass favors Maynilad to the detriment of Manila Water customers and that Ty, as the Chief Regulator ordered such closure. In short, Salazar was alleging that the crisis is artificial.

The intriguing thing is, when asked by people if Salazar’s solution would help, Ty did not answer but instead said that maybe his evil twin closed the bypass without his knowledge. Ty then deleted his post but by that time, screen shots of the exchange have been repeatedly posted elsewhere.

On Friday, Ty faced the media and said that the bypass was open. He labeled people who engaged him as trolls. Just a few hours after, President Duterte  ordered the MWSS to demand from Manila Water and Maynilad and other offices to release water good for 150 days from Angat Dam by noontime.

As of this writing, we still do not have water from our faucets. Like millions of affected families, we are awaiting the result of Duterte’s orders. However, if indeed the crisis is immediately solved, then, is the crisis real or artificial?

Is it a created “crisis” to justify the rushing of the Kaliwa dam which is part of China’s loan package to us, and which will be erected by the Chinese? I hope not because millions of Filipinos have, and still are suffering.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: Elizabeth Angsioco , water crisis , Maynilad , MWSS , Manila Water
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