MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday (March 15) ordered the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) to demand from Manila Water and Maynilad the release of water supply from Angat dam.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement that Duterte wants the release of water from Angat Dam to take effect Friday at noon to address the water crisis that has gripped thousands of households in Eastern Metro Manila and Rizal province for more than a week now.
Panelo said the Manila Water Company, Maynilad and other responsible offices were instructed to release water from Angat dam that is good for 150 days.
“The President is directing the Metropolitan Waterworks 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 1, 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 his statement.
“Failure to act or comply with this directive, the President will personally go to them and make the responsible officers account for such failure,” he added.
MWSS is the government agency that is responsible for splitting the water concession into an east and a west concessionaire.
Manila Water provides for eastern Metro Manila and Rizal province while Maynilad services the western zone.
In response to Duterte’s order, MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco said they have already implemented ways to address the metro water crisis, including the daily release of maximum liters of water that can be accommodated in the common aqueducts and tunnels towards La Mesa Dam.
Velasco also clarified that the water being released from Angat Dam is measured in million liters per day and not in 150 days, in reference to the President’s order.
“I think the recommendations that were given to him are not the right recommendation. But I corrected that already. I texted Secretary to brief the President what is the real situation,” Velasco said.
“I already assured the President through (Executive) Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea that the MWSS will solve it at its level,” he added.
The MWSS Administrator earlier said Maynilad has agreed to share at least 50 million liters per day of its supply with Manila Water and lend its trucks to distribute water rations in affected areas.
Manila Water has also been given permission to activate its water treatment plant in Rizal this month to serve as another source to supply households.
“’Yun naman pong deep wells, the Manila Water was already given the authority by NWRB to start simultaneously lahat ng pwede nilang gawin just to make sure that the 100mld na kakulangan niya pa ay matatapos because the President does not want this to last more than two months,” Velasco added.
He also assured that the MWSS will do everything in its power to solve the metro water crisis, and urged the public to stop the blame game.
“Sabi ko nga, walang sisihan ito pero just for your information, lahat ng ito dapat ginawa a long time ago na eh. We are being on a catch up mode,” he said.
Velasco also lamented the delays in the implementation of projects, such as Kaliwa and Laiban dams, which are part of the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program aimed at boosting water supply and ensuring long-term supply in Metro Manila and nearby areas.
The completion of these projects has been delayed following oppositions from environmentalists and other groups in 2018.
“Hindi kayang gawin in three years ang dam. We have started doing all of this pag-upo namin, inaayos na namin ‘yung kaya naming gawin. There is no short term to get the water. We have, all the time, been relying on Angat dam which pag-upo namin, na-realize namin is not the right thing,” he said.
That’s why we opened the Kaliwa Dam. Kaliwa dam started during the Duterte administration, we hope to finish it during the Duterte administration,” he added.
Velasco said the Kaliwa Dam is supposed to be the first land-based water source that will be opened after 40 years to lessen the pressure on Angat Dam.
“That is the first land-based water source na inumpisahan after 40 years. Can you imagine nag-rely tayo sa Angat dam for 40 years? Kailangan natin yun,” Velasco said.
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Since last week, residents in several areas in Metro Manila have been grappling with limited water supply partly due to the rapidly declining water level at La Mesa Dam brought by the prevailing El Niño phenomenon.
The water service interruptions started shortly after Manila Water announced in March 4 that it is implementing adjustments in its water service operations as part of its contingency plan for the effects of El Niño.
READ: Manila Water to adjust service operations as La Mesa Dam water level drops
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Angat Dam water level, which is the main water source of Metro Manila, is still reportedly within the normal level. It is connected to the reservoir of the La Mesa dam, which is now at its lowest water level in 21 years.
READ: La Mesa Dam water level lowest in 21 years-PAGASA
READ: Malacañang eyes probe on ‘artificial’ Manila Water shortage
On Thursday, Panelo raised the possibility that the shortage in Manila Water supply is just artificial, citing information that Maynilad is not facing the same problem when both concessionaires are drawing from Angat Dam. –– Robie de Guzman