Senator Imelda “Imee” Marcos on Monday urged the government to solve the impasse in negotiations with tribal communities affected by the Kaliwa Dam project as the ongoing disruption on water supply has raised concern over the long-term water security of Metro Manila and neighboring cities.
Despite the rains in recent months, Marcos noted that Angat Dam’s water supply has continued to dip below its minimum operating level of 180 meters since Thursday, far from its highest level of 204.5 meters recorded in January.
Without more rain, the senator warned that Angat Dam’s water supply might drop to its critical level of 160 meters by November, if the present rate of decrease continues.
Marcos issued the call to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), saying they should come up with long-term solutions to solve a possible water crisis.
“Once and for all, let’s buckle down and solve Metro Manila’s perennial water problem, short and long-term,” Marcos said.
“The translation of project documents that the Dumagats had requested so long ago will lend transparency to the negotiations in acquiring their free, prior, and informed consent according to law,” the senator added.
Over the weekend, Marcos said 32 indigenous communities in the municipalities of General Nakar and Infanta in Quezon province, led by tribal leader Marcelino Tena, complained that the NCIP had left them out of the distribution of the translated documents.
Tena’s group, Samahan ng Katutubong Agta/Dumagat-Remontado na Binabaka at Ipinagtatanggol ang Lupang Ninuno, is opposing the Kaliwa Dam project over fears it will inevitably submerge ancestral domain and displace their people.
The tribal leader also told Marcos’s office that police escorts were guarding Chinese workers of the project contractor, China Energy Engineering Co. (CEEC) Ltd., who continued building access roads to the Kaliwa Dam site despite lacking the required government permits.
However, the government had resumed building access roads in May amid the COVID-19 lockdown, reneging on a promise the MWSS made in February during the last hearing of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities.
Marcos said that if the Kaliwa Dam project pushes through, its timeline for completion shows that Metro Manila’s growing population of almost 13 million may face a lack of water security in at least the next five years.
For now, she said, water supply can be increased if Maynilad uses its billions in profit to further reduce its non-revenue water, or water lost to leakages and illegal connection, which the MWSS placed at more than 30 percent of the private concessionaire’s total water distribution.
“Reducing non-revenue water will also help lower the price of water, since consumers will no longer have to cover for all that huge 30 percent wastage,” Marcos said.
“Manila Water has identified Laguna Lake as an alternative water source, but siltation makes its water quality more difficult and thus, more expensive to filter, which means higher costs will be passed on to the consumer,” she added.
But she said the government can also consider rehabilitating other dams and constructing rainwater harvesting facilities.