Worsening Water Shortage in Philippines Triggers Probe

Residents of Addition Hills in Mandaluyong City queue to receive water distributed on water tank truck and fire trucks on March 15, 2019. (Photo: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

By Andreo Calonzo and Cecilia Yap

The Philippine Senate will investigate a worsening water shortage in the capital region that has spread to the main business district in Makati City and will likely last for months.

Officials from Ayala Corp.’s Manila Water Co. Inc., whose tens of thousands of customers have been hit by water interruptions since the first week of March will face a probe on March 19, Senator Grace Poe said in a statement. Manila Water, which supplies half of the capital region, said the situation will return to normal when the rains come.

The interruptions lasting as long as 12 hours initially affected only dozens of villages. It has escalated to entire cities including Manila and Quezon City with longer outages. Some districts have gone without water for several days.

“We are calling this investigation because the public is already thirsty for the truth, now that they don’t have water to drink and clean with,” Poe said.


More areas, including parts of Makati City will have no water supply for six hours to almost an entire day starting Wednesday, Manila Water said in on its Facebook page. Officials from another water concessionaire, Maynilad Water Services Inc., as well as from government agencies have also been invited to the hearing, Poe said. President Rodrigo Duterte is preparing an order for closer coordination of government agencies to address the problem, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a separate statement. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a briefing Wednesday that the shortage would have been prevented if the China-funded Kaliwa Dam south of the capital was built earlier. Billionaire Enrique Razon is also offering to build another dam.

Manila Water

Shares of Manila Water fell 3.7 percent, its lowest close since Nov. 27. In an exchange filing, Manila Water said it needed to adjust operations after forecasts made at the end of 2018 showed water in La Mesa Dam may reach the critical level of 69 meters, where it can no longer draw sufficient volume. Demand surged after it announced supply interruptions last week. La Mesa’s level has dropped to a 21-year low, ABS-CBN reported on Thursday. Manila Water said earlier this week that the shortage was caused by rising demand and delays in the operation of its Cardona water treatment plant that was supposed to augment supply. The start of summer aggravated supply woes. Angat Dam in Bulacan province is Metro Manila’s main water source, providing about 4,000 million liters a day. Of that, 40 percent is allocated to Manila Water (which draws the Angat water supply from La Mesa Dam). The rest is given to Maynilad, which serves a bigger portion of the metropolis. Manila Water said the 1,600 million liters daily from Angat is no longer enough so new sources must be developed.


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