Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for accountability among concerned government agencies and private water concessionaires for their failure to provide uninterrupted and affordable access to potable water in some parts of Metro Manila.
De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion, filed Senate Resolution 1029 seeking for an inquiry by the appropriate Senate committees to inquire into the ongoing water shortage precipitated by the depletion of the La Mesa’s watershed’s reserves.
“As the dreaded El Niño season progresses, the last thing we Filipinos need is a water shortage – be it artificial or not. Access to water is a basic human right and not a privilege to be enjoyed by the wealthy few,” she said.
“The concerned government agencies and private concessionaires charged with the responsibility to provide access to clean, safe, and potable water should be held accountable for not only the shortage but even more so the lack of providing ample warning for a crisis that could have easily been mitigated or avoided,” she added.
Last March 7, water supply services were abruptly cut off, affecting mostly the customers of Manila Water responsible for providing water to the cities of Marikina, Pasig, Pateros, San Juan, Taguig, most of Quezon City, and some parts of Manila.
Manila Water attributed the water supply shortage to the increasing demand of water consumers versus to the decreasing water reserve level of La Mesa Dam which experts claimed could no longer reach the gates of its aqueducts.
As of March 12, La Mesa Dam had substantially dropped to 68.85 meters – significantly below its normal high water level of 80.15 meters – to adequately serve around 52,000 households under the service agreement of Manila Water.
Due to the water crisis, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominquez and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Reynaldo Velasco opined that the water crisis could be mitigated with the P12-billion construction of the Kaliwa Dam.
Kaliwa Dam is set to be largely funded by China and was recently awarded to Beijing-run China Energy Engineering Corp. If the construction push through this year, it is expected to be completed in 2023.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, however noted that the Kaliwa Dam construction project is vehemently opposed by various environmental groups.
“This drastic turn of events could further tighten China’s grip on Philippine socio-economic affairs as some critics have declared the Chinese ODA (official development assistance) for the Kaliwa Dam as a ‘debt trap’,” she pointed out.
“Such a move may cripple our financial flexibility in the long-run and compromise the job security of Filipino workers in addition to undermining our sovereignty and national security,” she added.
The lady Senator from Bicol also said the impending congressional inquiries should also determine the liabilities of MWSS and Manila Water to notify affected residents and provide pre-emptive mitigating measures.
According to her, she also wanted to find out the general program of the Duterte administration – or lack of it – to maintain a steady supply and distribution of clean and safe potable water not only in Metro Manila but also for the rest of the country. De Lima also said the government needs to ensure that any government solutions to the water crisis should not lead to long-term detriment of affected indigenous people, the degradation of their environment, and the subjugation of the country’s sovereignty.