By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Regulatory Office has branded as “unrealistic” the goal of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to expand Metro Manila’s sewerage coverage up to 100 percent by 2026.
This developed after the DENR fast tracked the completion of Metro Manila’s sewerage system. This means water concessionaires must be able to achieve 100 percent sewerage coverage by 2026 instead of 2037.
“If you really want to fast-track that, Boracay-style, you shutdown Manila,” MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty said. “You don’t want to do that,” he pointed out.
Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu started the massive Manila Bay rehabilitation only in January this year. The rehabilitation was divided into three phases, namely cleanup and water quality improvement; rehabilitation and resettlement; and education and sustainment.
“Our role is that we have to make sure that concessionaires [reach their targets],” Ty said. “We’re fast-tracking to reach 40 percent sewerage coverage by 2022. That’s the tipping point. This is the optimal target.”
As of now, only 15 percent of the water-served population in the National Capital Region are connected to a sewerage system and about 3.84 percent of water served population outside the NCR are provided with sanitation services.
As part of a Supreme Court order, Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Company Inc., as MWSS concessionaires, are required to improve and expand their respective sewerage services to make sure that all the wastewater that is being released to Manila Bay has been treated properly.
Ty explained that these companies are only required to have full sewer and 100 percent sanitation coverage within their concession areas by the end of their concession agreement in 2037.
Ty further said that based on his preliminary study and his consultation with experts, sewerage coverage in Metro Manila can’t be at 100 percent by 2026. A more realistic target, he said, is 2030, but that’s only if the government can ensure “full cooperation” among local governments units and agencies, no financial constraints, and no delay in permit issuances.
“We are starting with 15 percent. Increasing it to 40 percent by 2022 is significant already. You can already feel the effect of that. By 2026, there is already a significant improvement,” Ty said.
In 2016 when the Supreme Court issued SC Mandamus on Manila Bay directing 13 government agencies, including MWSS, to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters to SB level to make them fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.
Manila Bay area covers eight provinces and 178 local government units in three regions of the country, namely National Capital Region (NCR), Region III, and Region IV-A.
Of the eight provinces, four are coastal (Bataan, Bulacan, Cavite and Pampanga); four are non-coastal (Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Rizal and Tarlac).
Its drainage area covers 1,994 km2, or 199,400 hectares. Its coastline measures some 190 kilometers.
Earlier, Maynilad said that treating wastewater is just one component of Manila Bay rehabilitation. But former Manila mayor Lito Atienza blasted Maynilad and Manila Water Company, Inc. for making Manila Bay a “giant septic tank.”