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MWSS asks Razon-led venture to withdraw case

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Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) NAWASA logo

METROPOLITAN WATERWORKS and Sewerage System (MWSS) has asked the joint venture led by port and casino magnate Enrique K. Razon, Jr. to withdraw a case against the state agency and release water to a concessionaire if he wants the dam-and-power project to proceed.

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 MLD (million liters per day) capacity to augment water supply for the east zone concession area, MWSS said in a statement scheduled for release on Wednesday.

MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said the joint venture between Mr. Razon and businessman Oscar I. Violago had proposed to undertake the project. He previously said the water source would release 80 MLD to Manila Water Co., Inc., the concessionaire for Metro Manila’s east zone.

Mr. Velasco said a pending case on water rights had previously been filed against MWSS by Mr. 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%.

“So I told Mr. Razon, i-settle natin ‘to kasi kung hindi n’yo i-release ‘yung 80 MLD na kailangan ng Manila Water at hindi n’yo i-withdraw ‘yung kaso — no go. (So I told Mr. Razon, let’s settle this because if you don’t release the 80 MLD that Manila Water needs and if you don’t withdraw the case — no go.),” Mr. Velasco said.

The need to find a new water source for Manila Water comes as the company fully used up and even exceeded its 1,600 MLD allocation from Angat dam. Company officials had said that demand in the east zone runs as high as 1,630 to 1,640 MLD. It fills up 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.

“A joint venture company owned by [Messrs. Vialago and Razon] has submitted to MWSS a Letter of Intent to undertake the project through a public-private partnership scheme,” the agency’s statement said.

The Wawa River-New Montalban Dam project is among the medium-term sources being eyed by MWSS, which is tasked to source water for Metro Manila’s east and west zone water concessionaires.

“So the basis of your study, submission of ancillary proposal, will hinge on your withdrawal of the case against us,” Mr. Velasco said.

He said although there was no formal response yet from Mr. Razon, there was already an “understanding” on the settling of the issue.

“But I’m just waiting, siguro (maybe) after the New Year,” he said.

Mr. Velasco said the public-private partnership calls for MWSS to acquire a stake in the project.

Asked about the size of the stake MWSS would take, he said the final number would depend on the outcome of a feasibility study, which is set for completion by February or March next year.

He said the dam project has a power component, and that the Razon group had presented it to the MWSS board. He said the businessman would not be involved in the project if it did not have a hydroelectric power component.

Ang gusto n’ya power (He wants the power component),” Mr. Velasco said.

Aside from the Wawa dam project, the other medium-term water projects identified by the MWSS are the Kaliwa dam with a 600 MLD capacity; Laguna Lake with 500 MLD; Sumag River with 188 MLD; and Tayabasan River with 175 MLD. — Victor V. Saulon

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