PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte will take extreme action against water concessionaires that fail to address the ongoing water crisis, up to and including cancellation of their contracts, his spokesman said.
In a briefing Monday, Salvador S. Panelo said water concessionaires need to “shape up or ship out” if they prolong the water crisis in Metro Manila and the government will be compelled to act against them.
“I suppose the fact that they have not undertaken proper measures that will prevent the evolution of this upcoming crisis again would be a factor that would make the President decide on drastic action against them,” Mr. Panelo said, noting that Mr. Duterte has previously considered a course of action that includes “tanggalin yung kontrata” (contract cancellation).
The two concessionaires responsible for providing water to the capital are Maynilad Water Services, Inc. (Maynilad) and Manila Water Co. (Manila Water).
The crisis began earlier this year when water levels in Angat Dam, the ultimate source of the capital’s water, and La Mesa Dam, which is fed by Angat, fell below critical level. Water levels in Angat Dam continue to recede with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) saying over the weekend that Angat’s water level is at 185.64 meters, down 0.23 meters from the day before but still a little above the critical level of 180 meters. The weather service added that it forecasts a water crisis in the next two months.
The water shortage experienced in Metro Manila and nearby provinces has prompted both service providers to implement daily rationing as long as 12 hours.
The government is currently moving forward on the Kaliwa Dam Project as a long-term solution for Metro Manila’s supply needs, supplementing Angat. The project is set to finish in 2023 and will be built by China Energy Engineering Corp.
Asked about the Kaliwa Dam project at an oath-taking ceremony, the President told reporters in Malacañang that he is considering the use of “police power” including property confiscation to see the project through, if warranted.
The project has been opposed by legislators and non-government organizations, saying that the construction of the dam will affect the homes and livelihood of indigenous peoples in Rizal and Quezon. Some have also raised questions on the process behind the issuance of an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
An investigation into Kaliwa Dam is pending in the House.
Mr. Panelo said that if the House investigation shows that it will produce no benefits, the project could be shut down.
“If the findings show that it against the interest of the people there, then it can be rescinded If the findings show that it is against the interest of our country, then the Chinese government will understand as it would do the same if they are placed in the same situation,” he said.
He added that a Japanese firm has written to explain the project’s drawbacks, and that he has forwarded the letter to the agencies concerned. — Gillian M. Cortez
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