By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Wawa Dam project is pushing through and is expected to deliver treated water by 2022, but the condition of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) for one of the project’s proponents to drop the case it filed against the government regarding his “water rights” in the surrounding watershed still stands.
MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco said he still won’t allow port magnate Enrique Razon and businessman Oscar Violago to build the Wawa Bulk Water Supply Project if Violago won’t drop the case he filed against the government years ago regarding his water rights.
Razon’s Prime Infra, through a partnership with Violago’s San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders and Developers Group (SLRBD), signed a memorandum of understanding last week with Manila Water Company Inc. to cooperate in the possible development of the Wawa Bulk Water Supply Project.
But it was not made clear whether Violago already withdrew his case against the government or Velasco just simply took back his condition.
Speaking to Bulletin on Monday, Velasco said his condition still stands.
“It is still a must. It is still one of the requirements and Mr. Razon, who bought 80 percent of the water rights from Mr. Violago, knows that,” Velasco said in a phone interview.
“I won’t let them present that project to the MWSS Board if they still have a case against us,” he added.
Violago, who is involved in the construction of hydropower plants, began proposing to convert Wawa Watershed in Montalban, Rizal into a dam in the early 1990s.
In 1993, he claimed he obtained the water rights to develop the Wawa Dam Project but MWSS and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) still won’t allow him to push through with it.
He even claimed that Manila Water “wants to grab” the project from him.
But in October last year, Velasco said the agency has considered the proposal of Violago and its newly tapped partner, Razon, the owner of International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) and Bloomberry Resorts Corp.
However, Velasco said the Wawa Dam will not push through until Violago withdraw the case and allow Manila Water be the off-taker for the water to be treated out of the dam.
“The condition is for proponents to drop the case and allow Manila Water to tap at least 80 mld [million liters per day] so they can distribute,” Velasco said.
With a planned capacity of over 500 mld, Wawa Dam is at the Wawa catchment area traversing the municipality of Rodriguez and city of Antipolo, both in the province of Rizal. It is strategically located to serve the expansion areas Manila Water
Water experts have long-cited Wawa as the best potential water supply source for Metro Manila.
Compared to Laguna Lake and other similar water supply options, it does not require an expensive treatment technology like reverse osmosis. At its capacity, it can serve more than 500,000 households in the MWSS franchise area.
The recently agreement between Prime Infra and Manila Water formalizes the formation of a technical team that will conduct a technical study on the Wawa Dam project, which shall be reviewed and approved by the MWSS.
Talks are now ongoing between Prime Infra and Manila Water to start the project at the soonest possible time, especially considering the current water crisis.
“The proximity and water source quality of the Wawa catchment area will allow us to deliver first water no later than 2022. Because of the scale and life cycle cost of large dams, the public can be assured that we will deliver it in a cost-effective manner,” Prime Infra President Guillaume Lucci said.
Manila Water is now in hot water for its implementation of low to no water supply interruption, affecting 1.2 million of its customers.