Concessionaires prepare plan for scenario without Kaliwa Dam supply

Published November 11, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Water concessionaires Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Company have already started imagining a scenario without the controversial Kaliwa Dam project, preparing for their own separate contingency measures in case the Duterte Administration fails to get the China-funded project moving over the next two years.

Manila Water and Maynilad logos

“If we see that nothing is happening, we have to make our move,” Maynilad President and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez said.

It’s the same case for Manila Water, according to Manila Water Chief Operating Officer Abelardo P. Basilio.

The ₱12-billion Kaliwa Dam project is supposed to be the biggest solution of the Philippine government to end the recurring water supply issue in Metro Manila, which has long been dependent to the 52-year-old Angat Dam.

The project involves the construction of a massive dam in Quezon and Rizal province that will have a capacity to treat as much as 600 million liters of water per day (mld).

Construction will be done by China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC) and will be funded by the Chinese government through an Official Development Assistance (ODA) deal with the Philippines.

It’s been more than two years since the Duterte Administration first attempted to get the project started. And finally, a few weeks ago, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued the much-awaited environment clearance to the project.

The only thing that’s stopping CEEC now to proceed with the Kaliwa Dam’s construction is the lack of approval from the communities of Indigenous People (IP) in Rizal and Quezon that will be affected by the project and will likely be displaced.

So National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), for its part, has not given its green light for the Kaliwa Dam, but it hasn’t issued any statement condemning the project either.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Emmanuel Salamat said the government’s dialogue with IP communities in the areas is on-going, but he declined to comment when asked if he thinks the NCIP will come up with a decision within this year.

“Our agreement with MWSS is if we feel that Kaliwa Dam is being delayed, we will not sit down [and just wait]. We will proactively promote another water source,” Fernandez said.

The new water source, he said, may involve tapping another 300 mld from Laguna de Bay, the largest fresh water lake in the Philippines and the third largest in Southeast Asia.

“In 2021, if we see nothing is happening, we have to make our move [and start building another plant],” he further said.

Maynilad now has two water treatment plants that draw water from Laguna Lake.

The construction of the third plant is slated to start in January, while the construction of the fourth plant would be the company’s major contingency measure if the Kaliwa Dam won’t happen in the next two years.

“We are doing some studies now for that,” Fernandez said.

As for Manila Water, Basilio said his company “do have measures in case Kaliwa Dam will not push through and all these are well coordinated with MWSS.”

These measures include pushing for Manila Water’s East Bay Water Source project, which also involves extracting water from the easternmost part of Laguna Lake.

This will add 250 mld to the Ayala-led company’s capacity by 2022.

Since Metro Manila’s major dams are not getting enough rains and there’s no new water sources are coming online, Manila Water and Maynilad Water are now both having supply issues right now.

A few months ago, former Manila Water President Ferdinand De la Cruz sounded the alarm over possible water crisis in next summer.

“For the balance of the year, what we will have to deal with is rotational interruption. What we really have to plan is the next summer, 2020, which is dependent on the year-end level of Angat Dam,” De la Cruz said.

Salamat shunned this, saying that the government is making sure that the water crisis that millions of Manila Water customers experienced last March, which triggered public outrage, will not happen again. “By god’s grace,” he said. “There will be no water shortage in the next summer”.

Kaliwa Dam is supposed to start last November and will take five years to be built. The next construction date target is within the first three months of next year.