MANILA — The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has made water security its top priority to ensure a steady supply for mega Manila in the next 50 years in the face of rapid urbanization and population growth, MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said.

The MWSS is likewise pursuing the development of core water professionals that resulted in the water agency obtaining the prestigious ISO status last year, he said.

The year that passed also saw the continued success of the MWSS-initiated Annual Million Tree Challenge (AMTC) that gave way to the planting of over one million trees since the project's launching in 2017.

Planting of trees is vital in the rehabilitation of watershed areas, he pointed out.

Velasco said MWSS has undertaken massive efforts to rehabilitate and protect six critical watersheds after it held the AMTC Recognition and Pledging Day last year that garnered over one million seedling pledges from various government agencies.

MWSS efforts to rehabilitate and protect six critical watersheds are done in tandem with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Sustainable Development Program (SDP), and in coordination with the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA).

Last year, the MWSS launched the coffee table book From Carriedo to Balara: Celebrating 140 Years of MWSS and Ensuring Water Security, authored by Ramos family biographer Melandrew T. Velasco.

Also last year, the water agency unveiled the Palafox masterplan for the MWSS eco-tourism hub, a joint project of Maynilad and Manila Water in celebration of over 20 years of successful partnership with MWSS.

Velasco said the plan will transform the 79-hectare Balara Water Complex into a four-in-one leisure center — a water eco-tourism hub, an institutional zone, a mixed-used development, and an adventure hub.

New water sources

Committed to continue the implementation of water infrastructure projects started by the previous administration, Velasco said that the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project (BBWSP) Phase 1 and Phase 2 are now 97 percent complete and due to be inaugurated this January.

“Perhaps, our customers are secretly nursing the fear that one day they might wake up only to find out that their taps have gone dry,” Velasco said. “Let me assure them that we have adequate supply to service the domestic and industrial needs of our customers,” he said.

MWSS has identified Laguna Lake, Sumag River, Kaliwa Dam, Wawa River-New Montalban Dam and Tayabasan River as medium-term water sources. On the hand, long-term sources are Kanan Dam and Agos Dam.

Last November 20, 2018, a loan agreement between the Philippines and China was signed for the funding of the Kaliwa Dam project. It is among the priority projects of the Duterte Administration which was awarded to China Energy. It involves the design and construction of a 60-meter high dam and a 27.70 kilometers raw water conveyance tunnel.

As MWSS believes that adequate and clean water can be delivered faster at cheaper rates, it has proposed the development of the so-called ABC projects that can be completed from three to five years, well within the tenure of President Duterte.

These projects comprise the MWSS Water Security Plan for 2018-2023 and would complement the existing capacity of Angat Dam.

The first of these projects is the Angat-Ipo-Norzagaray Optimization that would harness the untapped and water wastage from Angat estimated at 21 cms. A feasibility study is being undertaken on the unutilized water that could produce at least from 800 to 1,200 Millions’ of Liters Per Day (MLD).

The Bayabas Dam Project could produce 250 MLD corollary to the Bustos Dam. This could provide additional water to the BBWSP of the Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation that serves the province of Bulacan.

Also, being proposed is the Candaba Multi-Purpose Impounding Dam that could serve as a flood control, irrigation and even eco-tourism for Pampanga. The Candaba project can easily produce 500 MLD of potable water for the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Tarlac and would be a good trade off with NIA for the 21,000 cms from Angat.

According to Velasco, the MWSS’ goal under his watch is a water-secure mega Manila even amidst threats of calamities including a 7.2 earthquake.

Local and international linkages

In 2018, MWSS strengthened its ties with local and international water organizations.

It actively participated in PhilWater 2018 held in Tacloban, Leyte; took part in the World Water Day kick-off activity; and joined the CSC Fun Run to kick-off the celebration of the 118th Philippine Civil Service anniversary, among others.

Velasco also spoke on the Philippine Water and Wastewater Environment before the Ontario Water Mission to the Philippines sponsored by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in Manila and Ontario’s Ministry of International Trade.

The MWSS chief attended the 7th Asia Water Council Board of Council meeting in Daejoon City, South Korea. While there, he signed agreements with the AWC and the Daegu Metropolitan City represented by Mayor Young Jin Kwon. The agreements focused on the promotion of the water industry and the development of solution for water resources-related challenges.

Shortly after his attendance at the AWC BOC meeting, Velasco welcomed Asia Water Council (AWC) president Cief Executive Officer of K Water Haksoo Lee who visited the country. MWSS firmed up its ties with AWC to improve Metro Manila’s overall water security and wastewater system.

Velasco said that MWSS will host the 2019 Asia Water Council BOC Meeting in Manila. (PNA)