Metro Manila to suffer water supply cuts until August

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
Metro Manila to suffer water supply cuts until August
La Mesa Dam’s water level was recorded at 68.72 meters last March 15, the lowest in more than 20 years. The drop, which breached the critical level of 69 meters, prompted water concessionaires to implement water rationing.
KrizJohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Residents of Metro Manila and neighboring provinces will have to endure extended hours of water supply interruption every day for two more months or until August.

Weather and water authorities told a House oversight hearing convened by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday that supply could start normalizing by September.

That is if nature cooperates, if enough rains fall within the watershed around Angat Dam in Bulacan, the principal source of water for Metro Manila and its environs.

Vicente Mallano, chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, said they expect an increased amount of rainfall starting September.

“Right now, there is a low-pressure area coming, but unfortunately, it is veering toward Japan. Even if it generates a large amount of rain, it is not likely that it will reach the Angat Dam area,” Mallano said.

He said the heavy rains that flooded many parts of Metro Manila in recent days did not reach the Angat watershed.

Sevillo David Jr., executive director of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), the agency that allocates water to distributors, said normalizing water supply would depend on the rains.

“If we can restore the water level in Angat to 180 meters, then we can restore 24-hour supply. We can also restore the usual release of irrigation water to Bulacan and Pampanga,” David said.

As of yesterday, he said water level in the dam was at 158.8 meters, less than two meters of the critical 157-meter level.

David said that if the critical level was reached, the NWRB would be forced to further reduce the allocation for Manila Water and Maynilad as well as the Bulacan local water district.

Manila Water and Maynilad warned authorities and their consumers that a further reduction would mean longer hours of supply interruption.

Manila Water president Ferdinand dela Cruz said that at present, households in their service areas experience up to 16 hours of no supply.

Maynilad chief Ramoncito Fernandez said the interruption lasts only up to eight hours in low-lying areas in their jurisdiction.

He said they have been trying to augment their supply by developing their own water sources, including deep wells, and reducing their “system loss,” a term referring to water lost though leakages, pilferage and other causes.

Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chief Jeci Lapus said the water crisis “affects two million households in Metro Manila and an additional 750,000 in neighboring areas.”

Lapus said local water districts that are under his agency are willing to provide water to Metro Manila’s water concessionaires, but the latter would have to source it from the provinces.

Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado said it is important to restore normal irrigation supply to ricelands in his province and neighboring Pampanga.

“Thousands of farmers and their families are affected. The total area involved is about 27,000 hectares of rice land,” he said.

Outgoing Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said there are rivers in his province that could augment supply in Angat.

“We could provide both the short-term and long-term solution to this problem in Metro Manila. We will just have to build tunnels connecting our water sources and Angat dam,” he said.

Blame it on Noy?

Former president Benigno Aquino III should partly be blamed for the water shortage in Metro Manila as his administration rejected proposals to undertake long-term solutions to the recurring problem, according to some members of the House of Representatives.

Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. revealed this in a briefing conducted yesterday by the House minority bloc led Suarez following an investigation on the water crisis.

“During the briefing, we were told that in 2012 it was already proposed that several undertakings be done. There were several instances where this water shortage problem could have been solved,” Campos said.

“But the past administration rejected it on the basis that it would just be redundant. As far as the minority bloc is concerned, we’d rather have surplus or an oversupply of water than suffer a shortage. We need long-term solutions to this yearly problem,” he added.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo also tried to blame the previous administration for the recurrent water supply problem.

“Had they developed the sources in Quezon, we would not be having this crisis,” he said. – With Delon Porcalla, Alexis Romero, Rhodina Vill-anueva, Paolo Romero

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