Philippines scrambles to solve water shortages

The Philippine Senate is due to conduct a public hearing on March 19 into the water shortages gripping the country, especially Manila and Rizal, while others are demanding dam construction.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte has taken out US$211 million in Chinese loans for a dam south of Manila.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the crisis should hasten the construction of the divisive Kaliwa dam in Quezon and Rizal, which is due to be funded with Chinese loans but

is opposed by residents and environmentalists.
Filipino tycoon Enrique Razon has called for a dam to be built to the east of the capital as the hot season begins.

The Wawa Dam in Rizal province would be the nearest major source of water and provide 80 million litres per day by 2021 and 540 million litres by 2024, Razon told Bloomberg. He said his group could start building the dam by the end of the year.

“Our water project is obviously badly needed,” Razon added. “But it’s not an immediate fix and is for the medium to long term or this will be a recurring problem.”

The senatorial hearing will invite representatives from government agencies, water providers, regulators and other bodies to discuss the supply shortages.

“We will call for the hearing as part of the committee’s oversight functions over the country’s utilities,” said Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services.

“What we are seeing now is not normal and something that our households and farmers do not deserve,” Poe added. She called for coordinated efforts to “come up with immediate short- and long-term solutions to avert the current water crisis”.

“We also need to hear the current mitigating measures planned by the agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, given the importance of our agricultural sector to the economy,” Poe added.

Manila Water has warned that supplies might be interrupted for up to 20 hours a day around the capital, with disruptions expected for about three more months, when the wet season is expected.

The utility announced that it “is prioritising hospitals and schools in terms of augmenting supply during these times of interruption”.

Dittie Galang, a spokeswoman for Manila Water, told Radio dzMM that around 52,000 households in eastern Manila had little or no water for the last week, with interruptions occurring unannounced. “Under the new scheme, there will be a specific time, and the interruptions will not be concentrated only in one area. The entire east zone will be hit, with no water, or low water pressure at certain hours of the day,” she said.

Crowded Manila faces an uncomfortable hot season. Picture credit: Wikimedia