"A win-win solution is possible."
In two weeks, we will be celebrating Christmas. In this season of thanksgiving, we should be grateful for the many blessings, despite the challenges that 2019 brought our country and Quezon province.
Among those challenges is the water shortage that remains problematic for our country.
December is one of the busiest months, where the demand for water goes up. Since last month, rotating water interruptions have been implemented in selected areas in Metro Manila, ranging from two hours to eight hours of no water, while some experience low water pressure in their faucets. Despite the heavy rains brought by Typhoon “Tisoy,” the water level in Angat Dam has barely reached the spilling level, and remains below the year-end target level of 212 meters. This must alarm the public.
As we enter the new year, summer season draws near and we expect fewer typhoons. By now, we can reasonably anticipate greater water shortage in 2020 than what we had this year. This may not only lead to further inconvenience but also problems in health and may consequently hurt the economy.
The government must act now. It has been months since the discussions began on addressing this water shortage. Recently, the President warned the water concessionaires of possible administrative liabilities and amendment or revocation of their contracts if it will fail to resolve the water supply problem. No matter how the water concessionaires deal with this problem, it ultimately boils down to the available sources of water in the country.
It can be recalled during the 17th Congress, the Committee on Public Accounts sat down with the officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems, National Water Resources Bureau, Local Water Utilities Administration, and water concessionaires Manila Water Company Inc., and Maynilad Water Services Inc. to discuss sustainable measures that will solve the dire water situation in Metro Manila. The Sumag River Diversion Project was identified as one viable source to augment water supply in the Angat Dam by 188 million liters of water per day. The project has been suspended since 2016.
Another proposal was the tapping of Agos and Umiray rivers in Quezon. In 2017, Maynilad started the rehabilitation of the Angat-Umiray transbasin tunnel which aimed to convey water from Umiray River in Quezon to Angat dam. According to the MWSS, as of January this year, construction works were at 65 percent accomplished. Another potential source is the Agos River which was previously identified by a study of the World Bank in 2012 as an advantageous water source that will contribute to water security in Metro Manila. The National Water Resources Board has also conducted feasibility studies suggesting the utilization of Agos River by construction of a dam and a hydropower facility.
Apparently, we have such projects that will significantly augment the water supply in Angat dam. The government should revisit the Agos River projects and bank on their potential. There are empirical data that will show that these projects are sustainable and practical. We have safeguards to ensure the success of the implementation of these projects, and more importantly, I seek the commitment of our government agencies to full compliance to rules and regulations, particularly the environmental laws and safety regulations. We must also ensure that the Constitutional rights of the indigenous peoples in the area are observed, and respected. As Governor, environmental integrity, ecological balance, the rights of the IPs and the surrounding communities are deal breakers. We will insist that these are observed and respected, strictly.
That said, I am optimistic that a win-win solution is possible here. Let us bear in mind that Quezon Province is in a position to help the rest of our country. In the spirit of the season, shouldn’t we share what we have?
This Christmas, I wish that more blessings pour in our families. More importantly, I wish that water continuously flow in our homes. With this, I urgently call on the government agencies responsible for our water supply to seriously look into this project. If this resumes immediately, we may be able to achieve stable water supply before 2020 ends. Let this be our gift to ourselves to lessen our worries, bring coolness to our days, and make our lives less burdensome in 2020.