Angat drying up; Noy’s inaction hit

Despite the monsoon rains, the water elevation at  Angat Dam in Bulacan has declined even further, according to the weather bureau.

Saturday’s level reached 157.96 meters from Friday’s 158.02, the PAGASA said.

Water managers prayed for more rains to fall on Angat Dam, Metro Manila’s main water supply source,  even as they revealed that the water crisis being experienced by service areas of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System was the result of the inaction of the previous administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III and  the former MWSS management under Administrator Gerardo Esquivel.

The failings of the Aquino administration came to light during the House Oversight Committee’s  special hearing that looked  into the water crisis in Metro Manila thereby absolving the Duterte administration and the present MWSS leadership from culpability.

MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said at the hearing  that the previous administration failed to carry out  a water supply master plan suppposed to be  completed in 2012.     

Another Water Security Infrastructure Roadmap for 2016-2037 based on the UP-NEC Study conducted in 2011 warned that the supply-demand projection based on the study revealed that as early as 2016 there would have been 57 million liters a day (MLD) deficit in the supply. This deficit could balloon to 624 MLD in 2021 unless the water security infrastructure projects put in place by the present administration  were vigorously pursued.

Velasco said that the present administration has to take the decisive leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte to push for the 600 MLD Kaliwa Dam given the over dependence on Angat Dam that supplies 97 percent  of the water needs of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Even President Duterte’s directive for the release of more water from Angat Dam to the concessionaires at the onset of the water shortage in March this year could not be implemented because the Tunnel 4 project through which the additional water could flow was still inoperable, MWSS said. Work on Aqueduct 6 and Tunnel 4 were both started during the Duterte administration by the present MWSS Board and Management and expected to be operationalized by January 2020.

Two projects for additional raw water supply of around 275 MLD, namely, the 100-MLD Rizal Province Water Supply Improvement Project (RPWSIP) and the Tayabasan River Water Supply Project were also rejected by MWSS under Aquino’s watch. The RPWSIP was later approved in 2016, three years after it was disapproved.

Today, the MWSS has reoriented its priorities and adopted short-term, medium-term and long-term raw water security roadmap that will provide potable and sustainable water supply in the next 5, 10 and even 50 years with at an increase of at least 1,518 MLD by 2022, Velasco said.

Being fast-tracked under the new water security roadmap are the following projects: 150 MLD Putatan (2019); 100 MLD Cardona (2019); 188 MLD Sumag (2020); 50 MLD Rizal Wellfield (2020); 80 MLD Calawis Wawa (2021); 100 MLD Putatan 3 (2022); and 250 MLD Lower Ipo. These, aside from the 600 MLD Kaliwa Dam project whose implementation was began in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2023.

Medium-term water source projects from 2023 to 2027 are the following: 420 MLD Wawa Dam; 250 MLD East Bay; 350 MLD Bayabas Dam; 550 MLD Angat Norzagaray Phase 2; 250 MLD East Bay; 750 MLD Sierra Madre; and 1,800 MLD Kanan River Phase 1.      

MWSS also expects to complete by June 2022, Aqueduct 7 and Tunnel 5 which are now on stream to provide another 1,600 MLD to flow towards La Mesa. The completion of these aqueducts and tunnel system will optimize the flow of excess water from Angat to La Mesa Dam.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between MWC and Prime Metroline Infrastructure Holdings, Inc.   to pursue the development of a water supply source east of Metro Manila—the Wawa Bulk Water Supply Project. MWCI also signed MOUs with Sierra Madre and AMA to develop new water sources.

In a related development, House Committee on Metro Manila Development Chairman Rep. Winston Castelo during a joint hearing of the Committee on Public Works and Highways and the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources indicated that an underlying issue of the water crisis was  the neglect of the previous administration that delayed the construction of the Kaliwa Dam. 

“It was admitted that in the past administration, there was a talk on this but it did not materialize,”  Castelo said.

Velasco who was invited as resource person during the hearing was quizzed by Castelo. “Do you think that it is safe to assume that had the past administration not been remiss on their duty to roll out the Kaliwa Dam, we would not have experienced this water crisis right now?” Velasco responded in the affirmative.

Proposal for the construction of Kaliwa Dam was made in 2012 but it did not take off until under the present administration.The project  is expected to augment water supply by 600 MLD.

In the same congressional hearing, Maynilad Water Services Inc. president and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez said they have been since anticipating the completion of the Kaliwa Dam in 2017 as promised by the Aquino administration.  

For his part, Manila Water president Ferdinand dela Cruz detailed the timeline of rejected water supply projects since 2012 by then MWSS Administrator Esquivel. De la Cruz also suggested that government should look into the construction of more new water sources as he stressed that Metro Manila is over dependent on Angat Dam for its water supply.

When portions of Manila Water’s concession area started to experience water scarcity last March, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez   said that the water crisis in Metro Manila could have been avoided if past administrations had pushed for the construction of the Kaliwa Dam. “Absolutely. Had [the dam] been built before the water crisis, this had been much less serious or much less of a threat,” he was quoted as saying.

Topics: Angat Dam , Bulacan , PAGASA , Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System , MWSS , Benigno S. Aquino III
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