July 24, 2019
CURRENT AFFAIRS

At Water Philippines Conference 2019: ‘No water crisis’ — Palace

(SDN) — “TUBIIIGGGGG” (Water) used to be the scream that students in Metro Manila’s University Belt bellowed from their windows back in the days, circa 1970s. and later.

You would think those days won’t come back to haunt the country, specially in Metro Manila.

But it sure did, with a vengeance.

The “water crisis” is particularly acute for consumers of Manila Water, which provides the life-giving liquid to Greater Manila’s East Zone.

Maynilad Water Services, Inc., which serves Greater Manila’s West Zone is the other half of the two biggest water concessionaires serving Filipinos.

For days long lines of people jockeyed to get nearest to Manila Water trucks delivering, water, what else. They were armed with pales and drums and whatever containers they had.

Is there a water crisis, at least with Manila Water’s East Zone? Maynilad Water did not have the same problem, though.

None!

“There is no water crisis. It is pure inefficiency and mismanagement on the part of one concessionaire,” said Secretary Salvador S. Panelo, the chief presidential legal counsel.

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Presidential Chief Legal Counsel and Spokesman Salvador S. Panelo delivers Keynote Address. He recounted President Durterte’s ‘outrage’ at officials of Manila Water and Sewerage Administration’s (MWSS) over the ‘water crisis’ that need not happened. (EKU)

Vital role of water and energy

“Had not President Rodrigo Road Duterte’s acted decisively last Friday, where he directed the release of water from Angat Dam by noon time of March 15, good for 150 days, the matter would not have been resolved. Water supply has been restored to 90 percent of affected areas,” he recalled.

Panelo, the President’s spokesman, spoke before government officials and private executives, as well as foreign guests on March 20 at the opening of the three-day twin conferences of Water Philippines 2019 and Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient (RE EE) 2019 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.

UBM Exhibitions Philippines, Inc. organized the two events which, observers noted, could not have come at a better and more timely and relevant time just when the Philippines’ Greater Manila area experienced a “water crisis.”

UBM’s holding of the events also coincided with the United Nations World Water Day on March 22. The UN observes the World Water Day every year to highlight the freshwater’s importance and advocates sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Ms. Eliane van Doorn, director of Business Development at UBM, cited the vital role of water and energy, relating this to the Philippines.

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Ms. Eliane van Doorn, director of Business Development at UBM. (EKU)

Climate change and the Philippines

“Water and energy are both precious resources that sustain life and fuel many industries that contribute to economic growth. We have seen this as a golden opportunity to create the perfect platform for establishing business relationships for both water and energy industries, especially in this so-called ‘golden age of infrastructure under the ‘Build, Build, Build’ project of the current administration,” said van Doorn.

Panelo noted the conference’s theme for the year, “Addressing Climate Change through Resilient, Sustainable Water and Sanitation Development,” describing it as “propitious, especially as I speak before the umbrella organization of government and private agencies and individuals in water supply development.”

Today, he said, is the era of global warming, where the “Philippines ranks third out of 172 countries which are highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change,” as he cited the WorldRiskReport 2018 published by Development Aid through Alliance in collaboration with the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.

Panelo delivered the Keynote Speech at the conference that gathered hundreds of local and foreign participants and guests.

Water Philippines 2019 Expo and Conference is the Philippines’ fastest-growing water technology B2B event which presents the best water technologies and solutions for water supply, sanitation, industrial wastewater and purification.

On the other hand, RE EE Philippines 2019 promotes an increasing trend of clean energy, bringing thousands of opportunities to develop the RE and EE sectors through the promotion of new innovations on solar energy, hydro power, energy efficiency, smart buildings and green technology.

The presidential spokesman updated the participants on the Duterte Administration’s initiatives in relation with the country being exposed to natural hazards, such as droughts, saying this “is central in our discussion of resilient, sustainable water.”

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Executives of UBM and its partners. (EKU)

Administration’s response to water supply

He said critical water facilities have been strengthened to ensure adequate water supply, including the improvement of the Angat Dam and Dike, retrofitting the La Mesa Dam and Balara Treatment facilities, as well as the rehabilitation of the Umiray-Angat Transbasin Tunnel and the main water lines and pipes the Montalban and Nagtahan areas.

For a continued provision of potable water, the administration has provided, among others, Php818 million in financial assistance to improve water supply in 186 water districts (WDs) as of June 2018, the Malacañang official said.

“Also, the coverage of existing water supply systems of all WDs expanded by an additional 448,539 households, or about two million additional persons served from July 2016 to June 2018,” said Panelo.

He said the administration is also investing in ongoing and new projects to ensure potable water supply for generations in the future.

Panelo said these initiatives include:

  • Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project (BBWSP), where the administration is constructing water treatment facilities and conveyance system to supply treated bulk water to the entire province of Bulacan using WDs, which is up for completion by 2023;
  •  New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project with the administration aiming to raise raw water supply and reduce dependence on the Angat Dam with a target beneficiary households of some 500,000 when completed in 2023; and,
  • Angat Water Transmission Project (AWTIP) which will construct a 6.4-km tunnel designed to withstand and guarantee water supply even in the event of a major seismic activity.

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Part of the hundreds of attendees. (EKU)

Public and private collaboration needed

Panelo also told the conference that more and more countryside folk are now enjoying access to safe and clean water after the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) “administered a total of 2,059 SALINTUBIG (Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig para sa Lahat) projects involving the country’s 15 regions to the tune of Php6.674 billion in 2017, which fell on the Duterte Administration’s first full year. The President assumed office in the second half of 2016.

“This is aside from the 850 potable water supply projects under the DILG’s Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities (ADM) — Provision of Potable Water Programs in 2017 worth Php3.699 billion.

“Indeed, we have done much in such a relatively short period of time, and  we are about to do more,” said the presidential spokesman, a Bicol Region native of Camarines Sur province.

Panelo revealed that the Office of the President through the Office of the Cabinet Secretary is presently formulating an executive order to reconstitute the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) mandated to draft policy, direction-setting, and the integration of all government efforts concerning water.

He said transferring NRWB from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DERN) to the Office of the President is being crafted to make sure the more than 30 water agencies engaged in water resource management are in sync.

Panelo emphasized that the present Philippine population of 105 million, there are 22 million Filipinos, which is 21 percent, who were provided direct access to safe water supply as of June 2018.

He said the administration is aiming to raise this number to 43 percent coverage of the populace by 2022, which is the year when Duterte steps down from office.

Is the target ambitious? No, he said.

Panelo recalled South African leader Nelson Mandela’s statement — “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

He acknowledged, though, that the government needs the help of everyone.

“I am confident that, with our collaboration and partnership, this can be done,” said Panelo.

More than 500 exhibiting companies that included nine international and regional pavilions from China, European Union, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the Netherlands, and the United States gathered at the event as they showcased their technologies and innovations.

Organizer UBM Expositions Philippines, Inc. counted on the support of the Philippine Waterworks Association (PWWA), Philippine Society of Sanitary Engineers (PSSE), Philippine Society of United Master Plumbers (PSUMP), Philippine Energy Efficiency Alliance (PE2), Renewable Energy Association of the Philippines (REAP), and Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (PIPPA). (EKU)

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