By Ellson Quismorio
Why not revisit the Sumag River Diversion Project as a solution to the persisting water supply problem in Metro Manila?
Outgoing House Minority Leader, Quezon 3rd district Rep. Danilo Suarez made this pitch Tuesday at the final press conference of the Bloc in the 17th Congress, even as he volunteered to handle the project in his capacity as the elected governor of the province.
“The Minority recommends revisiting the benefits of this project, which was stalled back in 2016,” he said, noting that the project’s main goal is to augment the water supply of Angat Dam–the metropolis’s main water source. “You’re talking about 1.8 billion liters a day.”
Under the endeavor, the Sumag River will be connected to the Umiray-Angat Transbasin Tunnel in order to join the Umiray River in supplying water to Angat. The site of the project is in General Nakar, Quezon.
“Kung gusto nung dalawang provider na sila ang gumawa, pwede. Kung gusto nilang Quezon province ang gumawa, tutal nandun nako, we will do it (If the two water service providers want to do it, they can. If they want Quezon province to do it, since I’m already at the Capitol, we will do it),” Suarez said.
“We will connect that water to Maynilad, Manila [Water], but they must pay water concession to the province,” noted the veteran lawmaker.
He said the project was halted after the drowning of seven workers in an accident.
“Three months ago we lifted the suspension on the project,” Suarez said, referring to the time when extended water service interruptions began to hit different parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
“We gave the green light to MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System). You can continue tapping the Sumag Basin on the condition that safety measures would be properly addressed,” he said. MWSS serves as the regulating office of the water service providers.
But Suarez pointed out that the Sumag River Diversion Project will now be more expensive to complete. From an initial price tag of P774 million, the project could now cost over P1 billion, the incoming governor said.
“[But] a lot of people are willing to do that as long as long as they get paid water concession,” he pointed out.
The project is 67.79 percent complete as of July 31, 2016, based on the MWSS website. Suarez said it will only take another 18 months to finish.
Suarez further said that Maynilad and Manila Water had already agreed to give water concession to the Quezon provincial government under the project during a previous water summit.
“They agreed…We identified how that money would be spent,” he said.