“The best we can do is cloud seeding and we are requesting that to be done so that there will be no blame game eventually,” MWSS administrator Reynaldo Velasco said.
MWSS eyes cloud seeding
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - March 26, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is recommending cloud seeding as the Angat Dam, Metro Manila’s water source, is nearing critical level.

MWSS administrator Reynaldo Velasco said formal recommendations have been sent to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management to ease Angat’s declining water level.

“The best we can do is cloud seeding and we are requesting that to be done so that there will be no blame game eventually,” Velasco said.

PAGASA has warned that Angat Dam might hit critical level by the end of April as its water level is now at 195 meters, or 16.09 meters below its normal high level of 212 meters.

The dam will reach critical level once it breaches the 180-meter mark. The water level has been dropping by an average of 41 centimeters every day.

“I am not comfortable with 180 (meters). We should not fall below 190, especially now that we are facing El Niño. And the water there is not only for Metro Manila, we also have to allocate for irrigation and power,” Velasco said.

National Water Resources Board executive director Sevillo David Jr. said the decreasing water level in Angat is normal during the summer, although the agency is still monitoring the level due to El Niño.

“Included in our plan is the amount of water that we are supposed to release. As of now, we are still able to provide for the current needs,” David said.

Located in Barangay San Lorenzo in Norzagaray, Bulacan, Angat Dam supplies 97 percent of Metro Manila’s water needs and powers the Angat hydroelectric power plant.

The 131-meter high dam impounds water from the Angat River that subsequently created Angat Lake.

PAGASA said lesser rainfall and dry winds would likely affect 47 provinces. Of the figure, 42 will be hit by dry spell and 22 others will experience drought, which is expected to worsen by May.

El Niño is associated with below normal rainfall and is expected to last until August.


Nine business groups welcomed the steps taken by the government to address the water shortage in Metro Manila as they cited the need to come up with a secondary source to meet the rising demand and prevent a repeat of the problem.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Asia Pacific Real Estate Association, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Institute of Corporate Directors, Management Association of the Philippines and Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants said they support the directive of President Duterte to solve the water shortage within 150 days.

“We are heartened by the fact that measures have been developed in consultation with and cooperation of all stakeholders, including government water agencies, regulators and the two private concessionaires,” they said.

They lauded the behavior of Velasco and the apology issued by Manila Water’s chief executive officer Ferdinand dela Cruz on the water shortage, which also affected some of the Ayala-led company’s customers.

“While disappointment and anger are understandable reactions, we should recognize that the water service interruption is not a total failure of the system. It must be noted that the water service in Metro Manila has vastly improved in almost two decades since the service was privatized,” the groups said.

Even as the interim measures are seen as adequate to address the water shortage, the groups expressed belief that other actions need to be taken in the longer term to prevent a similar incident from happening.

“The private water concessionaires, being accountable for rendering water service to the public, should be allowed the option to provide raw water supply for their respective zones,” the groups said.

“Many lessons can be learned from this unfortunate episode and, hopefully, they will be employed to further improve the service and avoid a recurrence in the future,” they said.

Meanwhile, another business group, the Makati Business Club (MBC), also expressed support for the efforts being done by the MWSS, Manila Water and other authorities to solve the water shortage and determine accountability and responsibility.

“The MBC recognizes that it is critical for the government, the concessionaires and other stakeholders to develop long-term solutions for both supply and demand. It stands ready with other business organizations to gather business sector inputs and support for these efforts. The most important among these solutions are to prioritize the development of and streamline the approval process for new water sources, but also include more efficient usage,” it said.

While it sees the need for long-term measures to address the problem on water supply and demand, the MBC expressed belief that public-private partnership works and the privatization of Manila’s water system serves as a good model globally.

“Our members suffered with the rest of public, from the shortage of water in our homes and our businesses. But service is indisputably better than before privatization. We are confident in the resolve of the concessionaires and regulators to make all efforts to improve reliability in the months and years ahead,” the MBC said. – With Louella Desiderio

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