MANILA Water Co., Inc. has earmarked up to P197.8 billion for capital expenditure between now and the end of its concession agreement in 2037, more than half of which at P115 billion will go towards building new wastewater treatment plants and related facilities, company officials said.
“A huge component of the capital investment program is anchored on wastewater,” Nestor Jeric T. Sevilla Jr., Manila Water head of corporate strategic affairs, said in a briefing on Friday in Quezon City.
“Since 1997, we’ve done a lot. We a lot remains to be done),” he said.
The company called the media briefing to give its side after allegations were made during public hearings that it and the other water concessionaire in Metro Manila had been remiss in meeting their obligations.
Manila Water is the contractor of state agency Metropolitan Waterworks and Severage System (MWSS) for the Philippine capital’s east zone. From 1997 to 2018, its total investment in wastewater infrastructure has totaled P33 billion.
Arnold Jether A. Mortera, Manila Water head of used water operations, said the new investment in wastewater or used water facilities would be allocated gradually.
Aside from the water treatment plants, funds will also be spent on pumping stations, network systems, related facilities and upgrades.
He said the construction requires building a sewage collection system that feeds into the treatment plant. The two facilities always go together, with the first one requiring the tougher task of digging through roads to build the conveyance facilities.
Of the total capital expenditure for wastewater facilities, up to P38.4 billion has been programmed for between 2018 and 2022, covering the five-year period for which Manila Water sought approval from the MWSS regulator.
Mr. Sevilla said one of the reasons why the budget had been programmed until 2037 is because the spending would have an impact on the water tariff to be collected from consumers.
“We don’t want the customers to be burdened with a big hit in the tariff,” he said. “The roadmap is constructed in such a way that the effects on the tariff would be gradual.”
The company said that by 2022, Manila Water’s wastewater treatment facilities should have covered 38% of its concession area. Ahead of full coverage, the company will continue offering desludging services.
“While we are committed to meet full sewerage coverage by 2037, in the interim we have to do something,” said Kristoffer Eduard M. Rada, Manila Water head of public policy.
“That desludging program is the stop-gap measure,” he said.
However, he said the company does not have the power to compel households to avail of the desludging service. He added that some local government units have supported the effort by issuing mandatory ordinances.
Until the end of the concession period, the company will implement projects in two or three phases. Seven projects are set to start by 2022, while the rest will begin construction from 2023 onwards.
The sewage treatment plants (STPs) to be built are designed to cumulatively collect and treat up to almost 950 million liters per day (MLD) of wastewater from 7.5 million population in the east zone.
Manila Water’s budget will also cover the rehabilitation of existing sewer lines and the upgrade of operating STPs to meet the standards of the Environment department for biological nutrient removal in the wastewater treatment process.
The company currently operates 38 STPs and two septage treatment plants with a total capacity of 310 MLD. They are designed to serve 22% of the total water service connections. Coverage in terms of sewer connection is now at 15%, serving a population of about 553,061.
In 2018, desludging services covered 1.3 million population from cleaning and emptying 112,836 septic tanks.
Of Manila Water’s ongoing wastewater infrastructure projects, the one nearest completion is the Ilugin STP that will serve the sub-catchment area of north and south Pasig. Once completed in 2020, the facility will have a capacity of 100 MLD, with its sewerage system serving up to 765,000 households. — Victor V. Saulon