P85B MWSS project: Same river in Tanay but different plan
MANILA, Philippines—The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) may be eyeing the same river as the one cited in the controversial P52-billion project of the previous administration, but an agency official stressed that the latest proposal to build dams in Tanay, Rizal, is going to be a fresh take on efforts to resolve the looming water crisis in Metro Manila.
“The design of our proposed dam is different from the previous Laiban project, although they are at the same location,” Nathaniel Santos, senior deputy administrator of the MWSS, said in reference to the undertaking proposed during the time of President Macapagal-Arroyo.
The latest government plan is called the New Centennial Water Source project. Officials refused to consider the plan a “revival of the Laiban dam project,” as they tried to distance themselves from the controversial undertaking that had since been scrapped.
Estimated to cost P85 billion, the latest project will involve the construction of one main dam at the upper Kaliwa River in Laiban and another regulating dam downstream, minimizing the threat of a water shortage in Metro Manila expected over the next 20 years, Santos said in an interview last Friday.
According to a recent study of the University of the Philippines National Engineering Center, which was commissioned by the MWSS, Metro Manila may experience a shortfall of about 1,900 million liters per day (MLD) by 2037, taking into account the population boom and the unabated urban development.
Santos said that, unlike the one huge dam in the previous Laiban project, the two dams to be constructed in Rizal would have the capacity to adequately address the estimated shortage.
At present, Metro Manila sources 97 percent of its water needs from the Angat Dam in Bulacan.
The lower dam would be the first to be built and, once completed, would be utilized right away while the main dam is being constructed.
In 2009, San Miguel Corp., led by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuanco, submitted an unsolicited proposal to the government to construct the P52-billion Laiban dam.
That project drew flak from various groups, believing that the project would be undertaken in secret and could lead to an increase in water rates, while indigenous residents in the area would be forced off their land.
“This project now is prepared by the government. After the feasibility study, it will be subject to open and competitive bidding,” Santos said.
Once approved by the National Economic and Development Authority board chaired by President Aquino, the project would be rolled out by the second half of the year. Construction will start in January 2014 and is expected to be completed in March 2020.
MWSS has contracted a transaction advisor—a consortium of firms that include Rebel Group International BV, Allen and Overy, Crisil Risk and Infrastructure Solutions, Royal HaskoningDHV and Puyat Jacinto & Santos Law—to conduct the feasibility study and structure the public-private partnership agreement.
The firms have already conducted ground surveys in the municipalities of Tanay in Rizal and Infanta, General Nakar and Real in Quezon.
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