Troubled by the suffering of thousands of Metro Manila families who are suffering from a water shortage, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the release of water from the Angat Dam on Friday.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President is “aware and concerned” about the complaints of Metro Manila residents living in the affected areas.
“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 to release 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,” Panelo said in a statement.
He said the President would personally go to any of the officials who do not comply with the directive.
Manila Water has maintained that the problem lies on the insufficient water supply in La Mesa Dam, which has made it difficult for them to meet the demand of households and establishments in their service area.
The MWSS, on the other hand, has blamed delays in the construction of two dams that would bolster water supply to Metro Manila.
MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco also said the President wasn’t correctly advised on the 150-days supply, noting that he told Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar about it.
Currently, the Mandaluyong city government has been planning to put the entire city under state of calamity due to the effect of the water shortage on its communities.
Mandaluyong is one of the hardest hit areas of the water shortage.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday vowed to help ease the water crisis in the east zone of Metro Manila being serviced by Manila Water.
Arroyo led the opening of the cross border pipe at West Avenue and Bulacan Street, in Quezon City today to enable Maynilad Water to give water to Manila Water.
“After we open, it’s going to flow now to the other side,” Arroyo said.
Maynilad Water president Ramoncito Fernandez said the cross border pipe is the fastest way to transfer water from west zone to east zone. He said the other points will require the laying of pipes, unlike the one in Bulacan Street, which only needs the opening of a valve.
With the opening, some 10 million liters of water per day will immediately flow to the east zone.
Arroyo had earlier attended a briefing with MWSS officials to determine the extent of the problem in the east zone.
Fernandez said the opening of the cross border pipe is their way of helping Manila Water to cope with the water problem in its area.
The water crisis in the east zone is due to the increased demand of its consumers, which is more than what Manila Water can deliver.
Arroyo, upon the recommendation of Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, said the oversight committee on public utilities will file a resolution on Monday to use deep wells to ease the crisis.
The MWSS, meanwhile, denied a social media claim that the La Mesa Dam bypass was deliberately closed.
Chief regulator Patrick Ty said the bypass was open, adding that if it was closed, there would be no water flowing out from Manila Water.
“I have never ordered the closure. The bypass has never been closed,” he said.
Manila Water on Friday admitted it shut water lines in several areas that had enough supply, calling the move a “necessary evil.”
Only 260,000 out of the 6.3 million or 4 percent of Manila Water customers were originally hit by the shortage until the concessionaire decided to turn off the water supply in unaffected areas, an MWSS official told radio dzMM.
Manila Water Communications manager Dittie Galang said they turned off water lines so that they could better determine where the water from their Balara treatment plant goes.
San Miguel Corp., meanwhile, said it plans to use its untapped water allocation from Angat Dam to provide water to over six million people in the east zone of Metro Manila currently experiencing supply shortage.
The company, through its Bulacan Bulk Water Treatment Plant, expects to deliver 140 million liters of clean, treated water to areas affected by the shortage in coordination with the MWSS.
“This situation is unfortunate and dire for many of our countrymen who do not have access to basic water. Many are affected: households, hospitals, schools, businesses. Right now, the best thing we can do is to pull together and help each other,” said SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang.
Areas affected by the shortage are Mandaluyong (all barangays), San Juan (five barangays), Pasig (seven barangays), Angono (three barangays), Antipolo (10 barangays), Taytay (three barangays) and Binangonan (12 barangays). The list is expected to grow as the water crisis is expected to prevail until July.
Baffled by the sudden water crisis, Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on the public, invited government officials and representatives from the private water concessionaires to the hearing on Tuesday.
With the Senate hearing, Poe said they want to know what happened and what can be done to immediately resolve the problem.
She also said Manila Water has a lot of explaining to do.
“Three weeks ago, there was no advisory and we were not aware there will be a water shortage. And then you will wake up [and find] that there’s no more water,” she said.
On Friday, the Navy said its ships can help provide drinking water to coastal communities that might be severely affected by the ongoing El Niño.
“Our logistics ships are capable of storing and producing fresh water primarily for its operations but it can be used to assist communities while they are in port by providing freshwater. We have onboard desalination systems to convert saltwater into freshwater,” Navy spokesperson, Capt. Jonathan Zata, said Friday. With Macon Ramos-Araneta, Joel E. Zurbano, and PNA