Developing the right water sources

"I call on the government to reconsider the Kaliwa Dam project before it’s too late."


With the hope of addressing our perennial problem of urban water shortage, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) proposed tapping bodies of water tucked away in the mountains of Rizal and Quezon to augment the water supply in Metro Manila. Hence, the Kaliwa Dam project came to be. However, it is well-known that this project has been criticized.

Studies and assessments show that the Kaliwa River has the potential to supply 600 million liters per day (MLD). The entire Kaliwa Dam project would yield 2,400 MLD since this would involve an additional 1,800 MLD from either Laiban or Kanan rivers. By itself, the Laiban river can add around 1,800 MLD of water, but this project has been discontinued and abandoned by the government due to relocation issues.

On the other hand, the same studies on Kaliwa Dam show that Kanan River has greater water capacity and can contribute a higher amount to Metro Manila’s water supply. Kanan river is estimated to add more than 3,000 MLD, or approximately 38 cubic meters per second, of water supply to Metro Manila. The waters from Kanan may also be augmented by Sumag and Umiray Rivers up north.

MWSS pushes for the implementation of the Kaliwa Dam despite opposition and protests from different sectors, both private and public. The Kaliwa Dam project was originally a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program in 2014. In 2017, it was transformed into an Official Development Assistance (ODA)-funded program. A Chinese firm, the China Energy Engineering Corp., will be handling the Kaliwa Dam project that costs Php12.2 billion.

Meanwhile, the Kanan River project, should it push through, would best remain under PPP. There are private firms which are equally capable to handle development of water sources at no cost to the government. In fact, pursuing the Kanan Project under the PPP program may prove to be the most logical, beneficial, and practical option. The lesser costs would, in effect, mean lower water rates for consumers in Metro Manila, thereby benefiting not only the government but the public as well. Moreover, private firms generally are more conscious of the ecological impact of such projects. The social corporate responsibility of local private firms enables them to consider and understand environmental issues better than foreign entities. With this, while we utilize and develop natural resources to increase our water supply, we are assured of its protection and conservation.

I have been vocal about the Kanan River since last Congress. The Kanan Dam may be built as a stand-alone project while yielding a higher additional water supply than Kaliwa River alone. With the construction of Kanan Dam, renewable energy sources such as wind and hydropower may consequently be tapped to supplement power in nearby provinces. So, why pursue Kaliwa Dam? Why do we have to borrow money when there are private firms willing to do the project at no cost to the government? Why are we going to spend taxpayers’ money for a less sound and less secured option?

I call on the government to reconsider the Kaliwa Dam project before it’s too late. Aside from the issues that strain its construction and implementation, we need to be practical and prudent at this time of crisis. While we can’t see and predict the end of this crisis yet, we need to make sound choices on where and how money is spent when it is limited. If we can only get the wheels turning for the Kanan Dam project under the PPP program, it will significantly help address water shortage and remain a viable solution for a relatively longer period. Clean and adequate supply of water is essential to maintain life. Likewise, a protected environment is needed to sustain life. With our lives threatened by this COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be wise enough to focus on what is essential and more beneficial.

Topics: Danilo Suarez , Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System , MWSS , Kaliwa Dam project , Kanan River
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