By DJ Yap and Matthew Reysio-Cruz, June 24 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer
Image Credit to Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is opening its oversight hearing on the water shortage in Metro Manila on Tuesday as the metropolis remains parched despite the onset of the rainy season and the drop of water in Angat Dam to critically low levels.
In one of her last orders as House leader, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called for the investigation into the persistent water troubles, which began in March and continued through the peak of the dry season.
The chamber invited officials of water concessionaires Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc., Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), National Water Resources Board (NWRB), Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
Representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the National Economic and Development Authority were also called to the hearing.
Arroyo said the impending water shortage was brought to her attention by acting LWUA Administrator Jeci Lapus who sought solutions for the Angat Dam problem, as well as long-term measures to prevent a water crisis.
Angat Dam water levels
Reports over the weekend showed that Angat Dam, which supplies water to Metro Manila and Central Luzon, might hit the 160-meter critical level in one or two days. If that happens, allocation for Metro Manila’s water supply may be reduced.
As of 6 a.m. on Saturday, water level at the dam already dropped to 159.78 meters, well below its minimum operating water level of 180 meters.
Aside from the water shortage, the House oversight committee will also look into the proposed creation of a Department of Water, which will be evaluated by the panel for the next Congress to act upon. The next Congress opens on July 22.
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) said it was prepared to deploy its fleet of 20 water tankers to establishments in the metropolis where water was most vital.
Sen. Richard Gordon, PRC chair, ordered water tankers and treatment equipment to be readied amid the stream of bleak news from NWRB, which was giving updates on the dam’s water level.
Manila Water and Maynilad have started implementing a new round of water interruptions throughout the capital.
“Just like last March, we are prepared to deploy our water tankers to supply water to most critical establishments, especially hospitals,” Gordon said in a statement, adding that the tankers were equipped to supply “high-pressure water systems.”
At the height of the crisis in March, when Manila Water’s allegedly bungled response to critical water levels at La Mesa Dam crippled entire communities for weeks, PRC supplied 1,435,475 liters of water around Metro Manila.
The bulk was distributed to affected hospitals, including the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, East Avenue Medical Center, Rizal Medical Center, National Center for Mental Health and Quirino Memorial Medical Center.
Some of the hospitals were even forced to start issuing advisories to patients asking them to use water sparingly.
“If the water level in Angat Dam dips further, PRC will prioritize hospitals to ensure that health care services will not be interrupted and to avoid health complications such as sepsis, diarrhea and other hygiene-related diseases,” the group said.
PRC also brought water to some of the hardest hit communities in March, including Barangay Tumana in Marikina City, Barangay Addition Hills in Mandaluyong City and Barangays Old Balara and Culiat in Quezon City.