Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is now re-considering Manila Water Company Inc.’s P15-billion Laguna Lake East Bay project, which was dismissed by former MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco in 2018 for being “expensive”.
MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty said in a text exchange that MWSS will conduct a virtual public consultation next week for the project “to determine if it should push through”.
He also said that the public consultation was supposed to happen in March or April but it was moved to a much later date because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are just restarting,” Ty told Business Bulletin. “It’s similar to the public consultation for the Wawa Dam we did last year”.
Manila Water’s East Bay Water Source project involves extracting water from the easternmost part of Laguna Lake, the biggest lake in the Philippines and the second biggest inland freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.
The project is supposed to help Manila Water treat additional 250 million liters of water per day (mld).
However, this project didn’t really sit well with Velasco, who is now the chairman of MWSS Board of Trustees.
Explaining his decision to shut down Manila Water’s proposal, Velasco said in 2018 that the mandate of his agency is to look for new water sources that won’t cost too much and won’t take so much to build.
From time to time, Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services Inc. are still having water supply issues since Metro Manila’s major dams are not getting enough rains and there’s no new water sources that are coming online despite the growing population.
Metro Manila, home to 12 million people, still currently gets 97 percent of its water needs from the 53-year old Angat Dam.
In the latter part of 2018, after Velasco dismissed the Laguna Lake East Bay project, MWSS approved the Wawa Dam project, which will soon be constructed by WawaJVCo, the joint venture between port magnate Enrique Razon’s Prime Infra and businessman Oscar Violago’s San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders Group.
Manila Water is still part of the project, but only as a sole off-taker of the water that will be treated by this new dam.
A lot of other things have happened since then too, with Razon eventually securing a deal to acquire a majority stake in the Ayala-led Manila Water.
Wawa Dam is the only new water source expected to come online within this administration since the Chinese-funded P12-billion Kaliwa Dam could not just seem to take off amid environmental and social concerns.
In August, WawaJVCo signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Dumagat/Remontado Indigenous People (IP) of Antipolo after only two days of negotiation.
This will allow the project to proceed with the next steps of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process pursuant to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.
In a recent statement, MWSS said it “has relentlessly been pursuing improvements” in the allocation of its water resources coming from the Umiray-Angat-Ipo-La Mesa-Balara water supply system.
As a start, the agency had put in place a management control system all over this current water supply system.
It also established a cost-effective measurement system for its water portals and conveyance system, which aim to provide equitable access to reliable and clean water through balanced and fully accounted water allocations to its concessionaires.
MWSS Administrator Emmanuel Salamat said the MWSS is now “taking formal and scientific approach to standardize flow meters to be installed at the Umiray, Angat, and Laguna raw water sources”.
“Accurate flow metering is fundamental to the future conservation of water resources and the successful financial and operational management of existing water supply networks,” Salamat said.
“Decisions on capital investments in new water sources, new conveyance systems, new water treatment plants should be backed up with accurate flow instrumentation data and information, failing to gather the right information could result in failing to achieve the right water security results,” he added.