Panelo says Metro Manila water shortage may be 'artificial'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 14 2019 09:30 PM

A delivery of drums sells out in under an hour in Pasig City amid an ongoing water shortage, March 14, 2019. Residents in affected areas have been rushing to purchase water containers to store water amid continuing service interruptions in areas covered by Manila Water. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday said the water crisis may be artificial, attributing the scarcity to inefficiency and mismanagement of resources.

Panelo cited how the Angat Dam in Bulacan, the water source for a large part of the metro, had ample supply, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. 

The dam is the main supply source of distributor Manila Water, which has been grappling with a shortage for a week now, leaving taps dry in several parts of Metro Manila. 

Manila water has attributed its supply woes to the declining stock at the La Mesa Dam, its emergency source, owing to lack of rains, and delays in infrastructure projects designed to boost its resource. 

"Parang 'yan ang gist nung sinasabi ni Sec. Lorenzana dun sa kaniyang chat na the water comes from Angat Dam and there is no shortage dun, as far as that particular dam is concerned. Puno, walang kulang, so bakit nagkakakulang 'yung distribution?" Panelo told reporters.

(That's the gist of what Sec. Lorenzana was saying in his chat that the water supply comes from Angat Dam and there is no shortage there, as far as that particular dam is concerned. It's full, there's no shortage, so why is there a problem in distribution?)

"Kung totoo na puno ang Angat Water Dam, ibig sabihin inefficiency yan, mismanaged. 'Yun lang 'yun," he added.

(If it's true that Angat Dam is full, it means the problem is inefficiency, mismanagement. That's it.)

Panelo later on admitted the water crisis may be "artificial."

"Eh ‘di artificial lang iyon kung ganoon because if the source is puno and another concessionaire has puno also eh bakit naman iyong isa hindi. Iyon ang logic doon," Panelo told reporters in a press briefing.

(It's artificial if that's the case because if the source is full and another concessionaire has full supply also then why is the other one lacking. That's the logic behind it.)

Maynilad, which services other parts of southern and northern Metro, has not been experiencing any supply problem. 

Concessionaire Manila Water has denied allegations that it had been manipulating water supply to some parts of Metro Manila.

Dittie Galang, Manila Water's communications manager, explained that the concessionaire was not getting enough supply from Angat Dam, forcing the company to get water from La Mesa Dam.

"That for me is very hard to imagine, how could that have been. Manila Water has been providing water service to the east zone of Metro Manila since 1997. And so 1997 up to recent month, we have shown a very good track record of improving the water service and even working on used water service for the east zone," she said.

"So going back to the question have we been manipulating the water supply, the simple answer is the demand has already outpaced the supply, which hasn't increased at all since 1997," she said.

When asked whether the water crisis is being used to justify the construction of the China-funded Kaliwa Dam in Infanta, Quezon, Panelo said he does not know whether there is a connection.

"I don't want to speculate, hindi ko nga alam 'yung Kaliwa (Dam)... Honestly I don't know kung may connection," he said.

(I don't want to speculate, I don't even know the Kaliwa (Dam)...Honestly I don't know if there is a connection.)

MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco earlier said Manila Water and Maynilad will each receive 50 percent of the resource from Kaliwa Dam, which is expected to provide up to 600 million liters a day.

He said the target completion of the dam is in 2023, but it might be finished earlier if the project's Chinese contractors could make shorter the 27-km tunnel which will connect the water source to the treatment plant.

The project has faced protests over its expected impact on the environment.