MANILA — Stressing that Metro Manila’s water supply system was in much worse shape in the 1990s compared to its condition today, former President Fidel V. Ramos lauded the Duterte administration and the current Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) officials for addressing with dispatch the water shortage problem and for seriously putting on track several major water supply sources projects for sustainable water security.
Ramos made the statement following a courtesy call by MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco — FVR’s first Special Action Force commander and veteran EDSA 1 and 2 hero including quelling coup attempts against President Cory Aquino — who briefed the former Chief Executive on the various executive actions undertaken by MWSS to solve the water shortage that affected consumers in the east zone concession area of Manila Water.
Admitting that the MWSS is on a catch-up mode due to failures of past leaderships to develop new water sources, Velasco also discussed with FVR the short-term, medium-term and long-term water sources projects as well as the progress on the 600 million liters a day (MLD) PHP12.2 billion Kaliwa Dam under China official development assistance (ODA); the 500 MLD new Wawa Dam proposed by business tycoon Enrique Razon and Oscar Violago in partnership with Manila Water; the 1,850 MLD “ABC Projects” as well as 350 Laguna Bay projects by Maynilad and Manila Water.
Angat Dam which supplies 96 percent of Metro Manila’s water supply with 4,000 MLD was last constructed in 1967.
It will be recalled that water privatization in Metro Manila began when then President Fidel Ramos, instructed the government in 1994 to solve the water crisis in Manila by engaging with the private sector.
Until August 1997, water services in the Metropolitan Manila were ran by MWSS that was saddled with myriad problems: 1) USD880-million debt; 2) non-revenue water (NRW)was around 69 percent; 3) infrastructure such as pipes and distribution systems were old; 4) inability to provide water to one-third of the households or 53 percent coverage; and, those connected to the service had an intermittent supply of 17 hours a day on the average.
Under the concession agreement, Metropolitan Manila was divided into two areas: the east zone ran by Manila Water Company Inc. with 1,600 MLD allocation and the west zone, ran by Maynilad Water Services Inc. — formed initially by Benpress (Philippines) and Ondeo Water, a Suez subsidiary (France), until it was taken over by Manny Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments in 2007 with 2,400 MLD allocation.
According to Velasco, 22 years after the Public Private Partnership (PPP) was started, water coverage is now 98 percent in Metro Manila and serviced areas like Rizal and Cavite while NRW was reduced dramatically from a high of 63 percent now down to 11 percent by Manila Water and less than 30 percent by Maynilad.
On the fiscal side, Velasco who along with his fellow Board of Trustees only assumed office in February 2017, reported that MWSS is on the black as dividend remittance to the national government from 2017 to 2018 was unprecedented with PHP232.63M remitted in 2017 and PHP611.07 M in 2018, the highest remittance made by MWSS to the national government in its history.
Likewise, the MWSS settled a long-standing dispute with the Department of Finance regarding “Equity vs. Loans Payable to the JBIC Loan” issue by paying the total subject amount of PHP2.089 billion to the national coffers in 2018.
“Always be two steps ahead and strategic in running the water agency. I am confident that you can do the job better like a professional soldier who has won many battles in the field,” Ramos counsels the MWSS chief who in turn said “I will never fail you Sir and President Duterte.” (PR)