By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor
MANILA WATER Co., Inc. has formed a technical working group to look into the viability of partnering with port and casino magnate Enrique K. Razon, Jr. on the Wawa dam project to augment the water source of Metro Manila’s east zone concessionaire.
“What we have right now is a technical working group to check the viability technically and economically of that project,” Ferdinand M. dela Cruz, Manila Water president and chief executive officer, in an interview after the press conference during the Asia Water Council general assembly in Makati City.
“There have already been some ground work. Wawa is an old project even [during the] Violago time,” he said, referring to the project’s previous majority owner.
State agency Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) previously said the Wawa River-New Montalban Dam project involves the construction of an 82-meter dam to help mitigate flooding in the area, aside from its 500 million liters (MLD) capacity to augment water supply for the east zone concession area.
Should Manila Water decide to be part of the dam project, Mr. Dela Cruz said its initial participation will be the provision of water treatment plant.
“And then if there is an opportunity for us to co-develop it as an equity partner, we’re not closed to that possibility because we want to make sure that it is also at the standard and we [can] leverage our experience in making sure that it will work,” he said.
MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco previously encouraged Manila Water and the Wawa dam water proponent Prime Infra to sit down and find ways to jointly cooperate to move the project forward and help solve the water supply crisis as soon as possible.
He said a pending case on water rights had been filed before against MWSS by businessman Oscar I. Violago, who used to own the franchise for the project, thus hampering the dam’s development. He said Mr. Razon had since acquired an 82% stake in the project, leaving the former owner with 18%.
Mr. Dela Cruz said Manila Water’s participation in the Wawa dam project shows the company’s commitment “of being part of the solution on water source, kasi nga (because) this situation has put to fore [kung] gaano ka-importante ’yung (the importance of) water source.”
He was referring to the “situation” within Manila Water’s east zone concession in which consumers have been experiencing water shortage as the population it is serving requires 1,740 MLD, outpacing the supply of 1,600 MLD supply from the Angat dam. The company said the deficit had existed since 2016, prompting it to draw water from the La Mesa dam, which is currently below its normal elevation because of El Niño.
Company officials had said deep wells, a new treatment plant in Cardona, Rizal province, plus a cross-border water deal with the west zone concessionaire are expected to help Manila Water until the onset of the rainy season. They also said storing of water by consumers more than what is required further depleted its nearly 30 reservoirs.
“The private sector would want to be part of the solution in water source development. So we are talking to many different parties not just Prime Infra group,” Mr. Dela Cruz said.