'Lagot tayo d'yan': Water shortage in Metro Manila possible by 2023

Published September 1, 2021, 1:51 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators on Wednesday, September 1, expressed alarm over the possibility of a water shortage in Metro Manila for the next two years due to the continuing absence of an alternative water source for the capital.


During the hearing of the Senate Committee of Public Services on the franchise applications of Metro Manila water concessionaires, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Deputy Administrator Jose Dorado admitted that the region would still have to wait until 2023 to have a new water source.

Dorado was presenting the agency’s water source roadmap when Senator Imee Marcos inquired on the agency’s efforts to ensure a stable water supply in the Metro Manila.

“Hanggang sa 2023 wala tayong maasahan na new water sources?…I’m wondering, ‘yong sinasabing water shortage ng ating chairwoman ay tuloy-tuloy pa rin sa dalawang taon na susunod, tama ba (Until 2023 we are not expecting to have new water sources? I’m wondering, the water shortage our chairwoman mentions will continue to persist for the next two years, is that right)?” Marcos asked.

“Tama po kayo (You are right),” Dorado replied.

“Ang ginagawa po ng mga concessionaire ngayon po, ay nagu-utilize po tayo deep wells para ma-augment po ‘yong supply hanggang 2023 (What our concessionaires are doing at present is that they are tapping on deep wells to augment our supply until 2023). We’re getting our water from our existing deep wells,” he told the Senate panel.

But Marcos, as well as Senator Grace Poe, committee chairperson, raised their eyebrows on this response.

Poe stressed the need to prepare for the reopening of establishments in the country once the COVID-19 pandemic has been addressed.

“Ang sinasabi mo 2021, 2022, pero ‘pag nag-full force na naman, nagbukas lahat ng establishments, restaurants, etcetera, lagot tayo diyan (You were only talking of 2021 to 2022, but if all establishments, restaurants, etcetera, have reopened and are again in full force, we’re doomed),” Poe said.

At present, Metro Manila is largely dependent on the 54-year-old Angat Dam, which supplies 90 percent of the region’s water needs.

Dorado said they are also tapping Manila Water and Maynilad’s water treatment plants in Cardona, Rizal and Putatan, Muntinlupa, respectively, for Metro Manila’s water supply.

Poe said the burden of ensuring water supply should not be placed solely on the concessionaires.

“Ito problema talaga ng gobyerno, eh (This should be a problem of the government). ‘Yong concessionaires ‘di naman sila makakakilos kung wala rin namang mga (Water concessionaires won’t be able to act if they have don’t have the) permits to tap those water sources…Right now, we are hearing the franchise applications of our concessionaires but we can see that the failure in tapping new water sources is largely the responsibility of the government,” the senator pointed out.

Dorado, however, assured the lawmakers that there is “sufficient” water supply for Metro Manila.

“Kung makikita niyo po, sufficient pa po ‘yong supply natin (As you can see, our supply is still sufficient),” the MWSS official said, citing consumer demand projections from a University of the Philippines study in 2016.

At the hearing, MWSS officials said the government has yet to start with the construction of the Kaliwa Dam because it lacked the necessary consent from indigenous peoples, as well as the agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resouures for the use of lands within protected areas to be affected by the project.

The Kaliwa Dam project, a joint venture of between the MWSS with China Energy Engineering Corporation, has been opposed by several groups for its potential impacts to the environment and the communities to be displaced by the project.