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WATER CRISIS

President eyes police power to implement dam project

/ 04:52 AM October 29, 2019

President Duterte on Monday warned that he would use his “extraordinary powers” to implement the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project in Tanay, Rizal province, as a means to solve the water crisis in Metro Manila.

Amid the rotational service interruptions affecting many places in Metro Manila and objections to the possible effects of Kaliwa Dam, the President stressed that his primary concern was the people’s welfare and that he could not let them go without water.

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“You have every right to protest if it really, would place your place in jeopardy. But if the safeguards are there, and between your concerns and the crisis that we are trying to avoid, I will use the extraordinary powers of the presidency to … I cannot just allow people to go about without water, even for drinking,” he said on Monday.

Mr. Duterte made the remarks when asked if he saw the need to expedite the construction of the New Centennial Water Source Kaliwa Dam as an alternative source of water for Metro Manila.

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Private water concessionaires Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. have recently implemented rotational service interruptions in Metro Manila to ensure that the stock in Angat Dam will last until 2020.

Environmental advocates are protesting the construction of Kaliwa Dam, while others are opposing it on grounds that it will displace indigenous peoples.

The President, however, pointed out that his greater concern was the “greatest good for the greatest number,” and that what was important was that safeguards were placed while building the dam.

“Your concern, like the local governments, it will pollute. I will just say to the one handling it, you just place the safeguards. It might create some danger or damage but that is not my concern. My concern is the welfare, the greatest good for the greatest number. That is democracy,” he said.

Angat Dam

Maynilad and Manila Water last week started implementing rotational service interruptions in Metro Manila after Angat Dam’s water level fell to 186.23 meters, or below the normal level of 210 meters.

At 8 a.m. on Monday, the water level dropped to 185.28 meters above sea level (masl), down 0.11 meters from the previous day.

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Manila Water said the rationing was aimed at ensuring enough supply of raw water through the summer months and the rest of next year.

Angat Dam supplies more than 90 percent of Metro Manila’s water needs.

The dam needs between 900 and 1,000 millimeters of rainfall monthly to raise the water level to the normal high of 210 meters, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said.

Only 10 percent or 29 mm of the forecast 300 mm rainfall flowed into the Angat reservoir from Oct. 1 to 25, said Ana Liza Solis, chief of Pagasa’s climate monitoring and prediction section.

Metro Manila and adjacent provinces that rely mainly on Angat Dam for water endured low supply in 1998 and 2010 as a result of El Niño, according to Sevillo D. David Jr., executive director of the National Water Resources Board.

“What is different is that demand for water has gone up since those times,” David said on Monday.

The normal allocation for the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is a flow of 46 cubic meters per second (cms). Currently, because of the situation at Angat, the allocation is 40 cms.

“If the Angat stock does not reach 210 meters by year-end, below-normal allocation to the MWSS might continue until the summer months of 2020,” David said.

Fines

In March, tens of thousands of households in Metro Manila and Rizal province had no water as a result of rotational service interruptions.

The regulator, the MWSS, fined Manila Water P1.13 billion for its failure to provide customers continuous water supply in its east zone concession area.

The fine was on top of the P353 million in voluntary rebates that the company gave its customers in April.

Maynilad was also fined — P2,500 for every affected connection or household in portions of a barangay in Las Piñas for its failure to supply water.

In March, the President called MWSS, Maynilad and Manila Water officials to Malacañang and scolded them over the water shortage, which was caused by El Niño.

Asked how he would use his extraordinary powers amid the looming water crisis, the President said he might resort to using the “police power of the state.”

“Expropriation, or outright police power. Straight away. You just go to court and file a case if you want. I am there, and I will start to find a way to connect the water to the people,” he said.—With reports from Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Ronnel W. Domingo

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