Preoccupied with coronavirus response, looming 'water crisis' adds to Duterte's worries
The decreasing water elevation, caused by lower-than-normal rainfall, forced the utilities to implement water rationing in affected areas.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

Preoccupied with coronavirus response, looming 'water crisis' adds to Duterte's worries

Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - March 19, 2020 - 4:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — As if the government's hands are not full enough dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, a potential repeat of last year's water crisis during the current dry season is adding to the country's problems. 

Under Administrative Order No. 24, President Duterte ordered all state agencies, universities and colleges as well as government corporations to begin water conservation measures to "avert a looming water crisis."

The order, signed on Wednesday but released only on Thursday, instructed also local government units "to enact ordinances that will protect water supply" in their areas during the dry months of March to May.

The latest development comes at a crucial time for the Philippines, currently preoccupied on controlling the spread of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19). As of Thursday afternoon, there were already 217 confirmed cases, 17 of whom died.

In fact, a response to the disease was to increased Metro Manila's water allocations distributed through Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. From 42 cubic meters per second, water regulators pushed it up back to the original 46 cms last week until March 31.

That said, the Duterte government appears moving ahead with contingencies before any of Metro Manila's dams even fall short like last year, when rotational supply disruptions were common across the Metro until December. 

According to Duterte's order, water level in Angat Dam is projected to go down below minimum operating level of 180 meters from April to May. As of March 19, 8 a.m., water in Angat was at 199.58 meters, down slightly from 199.72 meters the previous day.

"There is an urgent need to implement water conservation measures to avert a looming water crisis and in order to attain at least a 20% reduction in water consumption especially within the areas served by the Angat Dam," the order said.

Angat supplies 98% of Metro Manila's water and the government has been pushing for the construction of the China-funded Kaliwa Dam in Quezon Province to augment existing water production. 

The contentious project, however, has hit many delays over concerns the dam would damage tribe lands as well as the environment. Completion of the dam has been pushed back numerous times and is now expected in 2023 when Duterte's term has already ended.

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