By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor
THE Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has not yet submitted complete documentation for its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) application covering the proposed Kaliwa Dam, which means the project cannot move forward, the environment department said.
“The project has no ECC but we don’t have it yet. The documentation isn’t complete,” according to Undersecretary Benny D. Antiporda of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in a news conference in Quezon City on Friday.
Mr. Antiporda said he has spoken to the MWSS regulatory office and is looking forward to better coordination. But documents such as the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous occupants of the land must be submitted, he added.
“We can fast-track but we cannot short-cut,” Mr. Antiporda said.
Kaliwa Dam is meant to be a medium-term water source for Metro Manila, complementing the current main source, Angat Dam, which supplies about 96% of the Philippine capital’s requirement. Kaliwa is expected to add 600 million liters per day (MLD) to augment the 4,000 MLD from Angat.
In November, MWSS estimated the cost of the project at P12.1 billion, of which 85% will be funded by official development assistance (ODA) from China amounting to P10.2 billion, while 15% will be shouldered by the agency.
On Wednesday, the MWSS head repeated his call for the issuance of the ECC for the project, an appeal he has made several times in the past year.
“On the Kaliwa dam, MWSS is calling on the DENR for the approval of the ECC so as to commence the construction of the 600 MLD water project targeted for completion in 2023,” MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said in news conference in Makati City.
Mr. Antiporda said MWSS did file an application before but this was returned because of the absence of the required documents, including the endorsement of local government units (LGUs), and the FPIC.
The DENR-issued ECC allows a project to proceed to the next stage of project planning, which includes securing approvals from other government agencies.
Water sourced from Kaliwa dam once it has stabilized will be equally shared by Metro Manila’s two water concessionaires — Manila Water Co., Inc. for the east zone and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. for the west zone.
At present, of Angat dam’s 4,000 MLD, up to 2,600 MLD is allocated to Maynilad and 1,400 MLD to Manila Water. Since last week, customers of Ayala-controlled Manila Water have been experiencing water shortages, which the company attributed to demand of 1,740 MLD outpacing supply.
The company has been drawing from La Mesa, its buffer reservoir, to meet customers’ needs, but the reserve water remains deficient. Panic hoarding of water worsened the situation, the company said.
Measures are being worked out as stop-gap solutions, including cross-border water flow of at least 32 MLD from Maynilad to Manila Water, the operation of a new water treatment plant in Cardona, Rizal at 50 MLD by month’s end and 100 MLD by August, and the activation of deep wells.
Mr. Antiporda said DENR-attached agency National Water Resources Board (NWRB) will identify deep wells that can be activated to provide 30 MLD by April and another 50 MLD until October.
In the same news conference, he said the DENR will comply with the order of President Rodrigo R. Duterte for the immediate release of water from Angat dam.
“We will make sure that the released water does not overflow and be wasted in the face of El Nino.
Separately, MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Lester N. Ty said he expects water supply from Manila Water to stabilize this month and normalize by April.
“It will be faster if it rains, but we can’t just rely on God for that one so we have to be able to address that situation on our own,” he said in a news conference.
“Hopefully, all these solutions that we have provided if they are on track can get things back to normal by April,” he said.
Meanwhile, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) offered to supply Manila Water’s East Zone concession area with treated water from its Bulacan Bulk Water Treatment Plant, which is intended to service the water needs of the province of Bulacan.
The company said in a statement that it holds an untapped water allocation from Angat Dam and estimated its ability to deliver to the capital at 140 MLD.
It said it is seeking the approval of the MWSS to provide the water.
In January, SMC launched Stage 1 of the Bulacan Bulk Water Project. Once fully completed, the company is mandated to supply water to 24 Bulacan water districts at P8.50 per cubic meter, which it claims is the lowest bulk water rate in the Philippines.
Phase 1 of the project has a production capacity of 200 MD. However, as many water districts have yet to upgrade and prepare their facilities to receive water from the plant, only about 60 million liters per day is currently in use.
It estimated the 140 MLD as sufficient for the needs of two million people or about 455,000 households, but will require between 7,000 and 14,000 tanker trips per day, depending on the capacity of the tanker.