Shape up or ship out
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2019 - 12:00am

“Shape up or ship out!” That was a very strong warning to MWSS officials and concessionaires from President Duterte as he rebuked them for their failure to prevent the water crisis that hit parts of Metro Manila, affected businesses and resulted in long queues for water rations. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the president did not want to listen to their explanation anymore because it will all be just plain excuses. He said they simply did not do their job.

Tough words coming from the President but will the people see this through? Are we really going to get our regular supply of water? They keep on promising and announcing on TV, radio and social media that everything is under control but in reality there are still areas with no water at all. We continue to wake up without water. Water supply schedule remains erratic to the dismay of the general public. Sanamagan!

President Duterte reiterated that he is constitutionally tasked to serve and protect the citizenry, and that he will not equivocate to take swift and drastic actions to secure the people from discomfort and shield them from suffering, regardless of the dire consequences to the players of the water industry. He told MWSS officials and the concessionaires that they could have anticipated such shortage and could have done something about it.

So yes, in the ultimate analysis, our water problem points out to the incompetence of MWSS. Mr. President this is why you should stop choosing your friends or comrades (mostly coming from Davao) to protect your administration. It’s about time you get professionals in the field of governance. You need to choose those who are intelligent enough to anticipate a looming problem or who can immediately resolve a crisis. In other words, you need more competent people. Go back to the drawing board and review your administrative heads and cabinet members who represent significant public agencies and departments. Many of them are not fit to be leaders to do the tasks expected of them because they are not professionally prepared to do so. They are ill equipped to run the job! Why get a retired police officer to lead the MWSS? Just like when you appointed ex-BOC Isidro Lapeña to TESDA after a multi-billion drug controversy. How can Lapeña lead TESDA? What is his background in the field of education? What does he know about his work? Like the MWSS head and the other heads, they will only rely on the people around them who can mislead them, fool them or deceive them. You need men and women who will get this country going.

By the way, I just need to make a minor clarification on what I wrote in my column last week about the non-rehabilitation of the 13km Angat Umiray Transbasin Tunnel. It was repaired in 2004 after the typhoon. Maynilad has been undertaking the rehabilitation since early 2018. The agency is contributing half of the total P750M investment to rehabilitate. Manila Water will take care of the other half since it is a Common Purpose Facility (CPF) of MWSS, a Joint Venture (JV) between Maynilad and Manila Water. New features of the rehab are “additional slope protection, revetment walls and steel sheet piles along the weir.”

My friend, Rick Ramos, an industrial engineer just gave me an interesting information. He said that the waters in the rivers of Tanay, Rizal, and Quezon together with Bulacan and Laguna could easily double our water supply of 4,100 MLD up to 8,000 MLD. My estimate is 10 billion liters per day (10,000 MLD) just flows to the Pacific Ocean, Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay. Sayang!

Wawa Dam with 550 MLD and Sumag River Diversion Project with 190 MLD (not 600 MLD as I wrote in my column last Monday) should be on stream by now. What happened? That is a total of 740 MLD. San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders, Proponent of Wawa Dam, has been at it for five years now. Neal Cruz has written about it in his Inquirer column in 2014. Neal has died and rehabilitation of Wawa Dam has not started.

Rick told me that between Wawa Dam and Kaliwa Dam, he would prefer the former. Why? First, it will be done on a BOT basis. Hence, no additional loan of P10 Billion that China is giving us for Kaliwa Dam with their own pre-selected contractors. Also, the quality of construction of the Chinese is dubious. Second, Wawa was the source of water for Metro Manila before Angat Dam was built in 1967. Rehabilitation is easier to do without dislocation of people and effect on the environment.

There is also the Kanan River in Quezon Province that supplies 1,800 billion liters daily. This was disclosed by Congressman Suarez of Quezon last week during the House hearing. Another is the 700 MLD from Laguna de Bay.

From a national security perspective, other sources of raw water outside Angat in Bulacan should have been already developed. Even the IFC document prepared for MWSS privatization 23 years ago in 1996 said 40% of the total water supply for Metro Manila can be sourced out from outside Angat system by 2019. Yet nothing has been done until today. No new source of water added or even construction has started.

In late 1995, the government of the Philippines hired the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as the lead transaction advisor for the privatization of MWSS. Concessions were awarded in January 1997. An exact quote from the IFC document prepared for MWSS privatization states, “By 2019, it is estimated that 40% of all raw water could be supplied from outside the Angat system.” The IFC website also points out, “The privatization required the transfer of operational and investment responsibilities to the private operators” referring to Manila Water Company and Maynilad Water Services. Each concessionaire would have specified rights to the raw water supplied…but would be responsible for supplying their future bulk water requirements.” More than 20 years have passed but it has not happened.

An update on new sources of water for NCR and contiguous provinces of Bulacan, Rizal and Cavite show a total of almost 6,000 MLD or 6 billion liters daily. This is 50% more than Angat and Ipo Dams of 4,000 MLD. Laiban and Kaliwa Dams (2,600 MLD). There is just so much water and yet we have a water crisis. Unbelievable!

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