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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Rody vows to avoid water crisis amid service rotation

President Rodrigo Duterte will take the necessary measures to keep his promise to stave off a water crisis, the Palace said Sunday.

READ: Water crisis may recur, NSA warns

“We will do something on the matter so the crisis will not worsen. If there’s a problem, there’s a solution,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo as the two private water concessionaires serving Metro Manila announced the beginning of service interruptions due to the low water levels in the Angat and Ipo dams.

“The President will study it and he will do what is needed to avoid a water crisis,” Panelo told a radio interview.

Maynilad said service interruptions were necessary due to the lower water allocation given them—40 cubic meters per second (CMS) compared to the normal 48 CMS.

Manila Water also previously warned of possible service interruptions if Angat Dam’s levels continue to decrease and said this is necessary to ensure that the water supply will last even beyond the summer of 2020.

They also warned that the water rationing may last until next year.

Maynilad handles of the west concession zone while Manila Water services the east concession zone of Metro Manila and its nearby provinces.

READ: Water service rotation triggers calls for concession deal review

In March, President Duterte threatened to scrap the concession agreements of the two companies after millions of their customers were left waterless.

Duterte also warned Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) officials that they would get fired if he was not satisfied with their actions to address the water shortage.

Militant groups have criticized the water concessionaires, saying that they should no longer be allowed to collect the remaining rate hike.

“Are we facing a permanent water crisis? It appears that since the water crisis broke out in March 2019, there has been no significant improvement in the sourcing of water aside from that which comes from Angat dam,” Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Both Maynilad and Manila Water were given substantial water rate hikes in October last year.

The water elevation in Angat Dam in Bulacan on Sunday continued to dip due to a lack of rainfall.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said the dam’s water level went down from Saturday’s 185.64 meters to 185.41 meters on Sunday, a decrease of 0.23 meters.

Angat Dam is a major water reservoir that supplies 97 percent of Metro Manila’s potable water.

Annaliza Solis, Pagasa’s climate monitoring chief, said the entire country has experienced a 60 percent reduction in the amount of rainfall this October.

While there were several storms that entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility this year, she said these did not hit the land mass or bring sufficient rains.

An Ondoy-like storm that could spawn heavy and intense rainfall is needed to fill Angat Dam, she said.

Other dams were not spared the effects of the lack of rain.

Levels of Ipo Dam in the downstream of Angat Dam plunged from 100.34 meters to 100.31 meters, La Mesa Dam from 77.42 meters to 77.39 meters, Benguet’s Ambuklao Dam from 748.99 meters to 748.76 meters, Benguet’s Binga Dam from 573.61 meters to 572.88 meters, and Laguna’s Caliraya Dam from 286.54 meters to 286.44 meters from Saturday 6 a.m. to Sunday 6 a.m.

READ: Water service rotation scheme set

Buhay party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza on Sunday took a swipe at the two water concessionaires, saying the two water firms have registered a combined P138 billion in net profits from 2006 to 2019 despite their failure to meet their obligations to their 14 million customers.

“Based on our scrutiny of publicly available financial filings, we’ve gathered that Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. raked in an aggregate of P138 billion in net profits from 2006 to June 2019,” he said.

“Both firms also rewarded their shareholders a combined P49 billion in cash dividends over the same period,” he added.

He said the two companies must have no reason to tell their customers why they would fail to address their water needs, and put up adequate sewerage networks and wastewater treatment facilities.

He disputed the firms’ threats that water rates could shoot up by 780 percent or by as much P26.70 per cubic meter if they were forced to connect all their customers to a sewage collection, treatment and disposal system as required by the Clean Water Act.

“There’s absolutely no need for them to jack up water rates. They’ve clearly been making a lot of money over the years, and some of those profits came from the 20 percent environmental charge and 30 percent sewer charge they’ve been collecting from customers,” he said. 

READ: Angat Dam level dips; water service cut eyed

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