As Filipinos grow increasingly frustrated with their inability to access water, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte today ordered two water concessionaires to release water from Metro Manila’s main water source Angat Dam to consumers. This, even though they’ve actually been doing that all this time.
The confusing order was announced through a statement released by Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo. Duterte demanded the water to be released by 12 noon today and for up to 150 days, Rappler reported.
The statement reads: “The President is directing the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to demand from the Manila Water Company, Inc, Maynilad Water Services, Inc, and other responsible offices to release water from Angat Dam by noon time today, March 15, good for 150 days, in order to supply the affected areas in Metro Manila and deliver, as well as distribute sufficient water to the residents thereof.”
According to Manila Water, the problem isn’t that they’re not releasing water, it’s that there is not enough supply from Angat Dam in the first place.
The MWSS said that the water shortage is due to high demand brought by an increase in population. Manila Water, on the other hand, says its limited supply was caused by the El Niño phenomenon, GMA News reported.
The MWSS decides how much water supply Manila Water and Maynilad receive. The actual opening of the dam and the release of its water to concessionaires is the responsibility of the National Water Resources Board, a government agency that regulates the country’s water resources, the Philippine Star reported.
Despite this, Duterte was stern about his demands.
“Failure to act or comply with his directive, the president will personally go to them and make the responsible officers account for such failure,” The Philippine Star quoted Panelo saying in his statement.
Manila Water has been implementing multiple-hour water interruptions in the eastern part of Metro Manila and parts of Rizal province. Those on the western side of Metro Manila which are serviced by Maynilad have not been experiencing the same water interruptions.
Manila Water said they’re implementing the interruptions because it wants its water supply to last until June when the rainy season usually starts, GMA News reported.
Quezon City’s La Mesa Dam reached a critical low yesterday when it was recorded at 68.74 meters, the lowest it has ever been in history. However, as of 6am today, the water level at the Angat Dam remains normal at 199.25 meters, quite far from the 180-meter critical mark.
And yet MWSS’ chief regulator Patrick Ty said that they cannot be released due to the dam’s infrastructure.
“Yes, there’s a lot of water in Angat [and other parts of the Philippines]… but it cannot go here because of the existing infrastructure limitations in the system,” he told Philippine Star.
The water crisis has spawned many speculations, including one where the MWSS allegedly closed the bypass valve of Quezon City’s La Mesa Dam, another major water source.
According to a netizen who introduced himself as a veteran MWSS employee, opening the bypass would solve the water problems. However, Ty said the bypass remains open and the MWSS doesn’t even have the authority to control it.
Ty said that the country would need other water sources to solve the problem and gave the controversial Kaliwa Dam project as an example.
Other government officials like Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III are also pushing for the China-funded Kaliwa Dam, saying that it would solve the crisis, even though environmentalists said that it could allegedly displace communities and ruin the biodiversity in the area.