By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Even if it’s facing way bigger sewerage problem than any other place in the Philippines, it is fortunate that the government may never have to find any reason to close down Metro Manila, the way it will for Boracay Island starting April 26.
That’s according to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), which is tasked to maintain and develop Metro Manila’s sewerage system.
Home to more than 12 million people, Metro Manila’s sewerage coverage only stands at 13 percent.
Wastewater, or water that has been used, needs to be treated before it gets discharged to freshwater bodies and marine waters because it contains a number of contaminants that can pollute and harm the country’s aquatic resources.
When discharged on lands, wastewater can also leach into underground water tables and potentially contaminate aquifers and underground water.
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), wastewater is also a big health issue as it carries and transports a myriad of diseases and illnesses.
At this point, MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty said the Philippine government has tasked two of the country’s biggest water utilities — Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Corp. — to invest billions of pesos so that, by 2037, the country’s capital will be 100 percent covered in terms of sewage treatment system.
“The DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] is in Boracay and the plan right now is to solve wastewater [issues] in the island. That problem in Boracay is already existing in Manila, and we are actually worst. Manila Bay and Pasig River is so dirty you can’t swim in it,” Ty said earlier.
“In order for you to clean Boracay in six months, you have to shut it down. But you can’t shut down Metro Manila, having a population so big. The price will more than quadruple if we do it 100 percent coverage on day one. We have to shutdown and raise prices. That is why we are going to do this in gradual phases,” he added.
Right now, both Maynilad and Manila Water have their own sewage treatment plants (STP) and Septage Treatment Plants (SpTP).
Maynilad has 30 STPs/ SpTPs that have a combined capacity of 541 million liter per day (mld), which cost around P26.43 billion to build, while Manila Water, on the other hand, has 40 STPs/SpTPs with a capacity of 312, all costing P12 billion.
Moving forward, Ty said both companies expect to spend as much as P285 billion over the next 19 years to improve Manila’s sewerage capacity.
Maynilad is proposing to spend around P30.19 billion from 2018 to 2022 to have a 320 million-liter per day (mld) capacity, and another P101.45 billion from 2023 to 2037 to add 1,128 mld in its capacity.
In total, the company would have to spend as much as P131.64 billion to have a capacity of 1,448 mld.
For its part, Manila Water said it could boost its capacity to 725 mld from 2018 to 2022 for an investment worth P37.44 billion. Another P116 billion will be invested by the company from 2023 to 2037 for additional 222 mld.
Overall, the company would have to spend as much as P153.44 billion to have a capacity of 947 mld.
Albeit slowly, Ty said MWSS “plans to pressure” these concessionaires to meet their own respective sewerage coverage.
Maynilad is targeting to increase its sewerage coverage by 47 percent by 2021, 68 percent by 2026, 87 percent by 2031, and 100 percent by 2036.
Manila Water, on the other hand, said it wants to increase its sewerage coverage by 39 percent by 2021, 65 percent by 2026, 90 percent by 2031, and 99 percent by 2036.