By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-editor
A JOINT venture (JV) company is developing a new dam in Montalban, Rizal that can serve as a medium-term water source for Manila Water Co., Inc., according to officials of state-led Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Lester N. Ty on Tuesday said the agency’s corporate office, which is in charge of finding new water sources, is looking at a number of projects as an alternative or buffer for Metro Manila’s east zone concessionaire.
“They are studying several projects but the one for Manila Water that was approved during the last rate rebasing was the Wawa-Tayabasan project,” he told reporters during a water forum in Quezon City.
MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said the project is being undertaken by a joint venture company owned by businessmen Oscar I. Violago and Enrique K. Razon, Jr. He said the project was originally owned by Mr. Violago, who has since sold control to Mr. Razon.
“There has to be an agreement between Manila Water and whoever is doing the joint venture,” he said.
In August, Mr. Velasco said Mr. Violago, along with a partner, had signified their intention to build a 92-meter dam in Montalban to help mitigate flooding in Rizal province. If given the green light, the dam is expected to deliver at least 500 million liters per day (MLD), he added.
“That’s the project in the Wawa dam that includes Mr. Violago and Mr. Razon,” Mr. Ty said, adding nothing is final yet.
The need to find a new water source for Manila Water comes as the company has fully used up and even exceeded its 1,600 MLD allocation from Angat dam. Company officials had said demand in the east zone runs as high as 1,630 to 1,640 MLD. It addresses the deficiency by getting water from La Mesa dam, which was not designed for that purpose. It projects demand within its concession to grow by 40 to 50 MLD yearly.
“I have yet to study if it’s prudent and efficient. I have to reserve my judgment right now because I don’t know yet… if it would be approved or I would reduce the tariff adjustment depending on the feasibility study that we’ll be conducting,” Mr. Ty said.
He said the new water source should be enough to fill up Manila Water’s need in the medium term or until 2022.
“We really need another alternative water source and we are exploring all options. The option right now on the table is the Wawa-Tayabasan [dam],” he said.
He said the conditional approval issued by the regulatory office last month is still subject to a final evaluation. He was referring to the new base rate for Manila Water ranging from P6.22 to P6.50 per cubic meter (/cu.m.) for 2018 to 2022.
The increase will be collected from consumers on a staggered basis — P1.46 starting this month; P2.00 on Jan. 1, 2020 and another P2.00 on Jan. 1, 2021; and between P0.76 and up to P1.04 on Jan. 1, 2022.
“We made sure that the approval states ‘up to’ that means we are allowed to reduce it further if needed,” Mr. Ty said.
Manila Water proposed a water treatment plant on the east bay of Laguna Lake as the option to cover the company’s expected water shortfall by 2021. The proposed capital expenditure for the project was not considered by the MWSS during the fourth regulatory period.
Under the proposed Wawa-Tayabasan dam, the Razon-Violago group will be selling its water to Manila Water, which will evaluate the quality.
“There are some components there that Manila Water needs to build. For example, the water treatment plant, the distribution lines to the metropolis. They need to be built by Manila Water. They have projections they submitted. I need to review them more,” he said. “We don’t want to pass an expensive project to the public and unduly burden them.”