Press Release
September 22, 2010

Privilege Speech
Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri

"Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this but no one can do it"

- Lau Tzu in Tau Teh Ching

Mr. President, the privilege speech of the Honorable Senate President yesterday 21 September 2010 narrated issues appertaining to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) that are both disturbing and appalling. The speech exposed layers upon layers of controversies that have been hounding these two government agencies for quite a while now. I believe, Mr. President, that as a staunch advocate of the environment, a legislator, and Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, I would be remiss on my duties and advocacies if I would allow the speech of our distinguished Senate President to fall on deaf ears. As such, Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, while the Senate President focused on the alleged irregularities in the MWSS and NWRB, I rise today to harp on the Water Crisis that Metro Manila is undoubtedly facing, particularly the necessity of having a sustainable water supply for our countrymen, and the obvious threat that this crisis poses to our economic stability and national security.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, my fellow Filipinos, I address this august chamber with a great sense of urgency. It may no longer come as a surprise, as many have already paid lip service to the issue, but I, alongside our distinguished Senate President, cannot, in good conscience, turn a blind eye to the fact that Metro Manila is facing a Water Crisis. The concern as regards the alarming state of Metro Manila's water resource has been lingering for a considerable amount of time now and yet no significant action has been undertaken to address the same. Metro Manila is facing a crisis of liquid disproportions and the concerned government agencies, particularly the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), have been sitting idly by.

As we are all very much aware, Metro Manila's water supply is primarily sourced out from the Angat Dam. It delivers Ninety Seven Percent (97%) of the potable water of Metro Manila, irrigates rice fields in Pampanga and Bulacan, and contributes Two Hundred Forty Six (246) Mega Watts of Hydropower to the National Power Corporation. It is, in a manner of speaking, the breath of life that animates the metropolis and the Dam's beneficial use can never be gainsaid. Angat Dam's sustainability, however, has already been compromised. The seemingly endless population boom of Metro Manila coupled by the drastic effects of global warming has made Angat Dam unable to provide for the water needs of the metropolis. Angat Dam is already over-stretched and, as all of us may have noticed, is no longer able to meet the water requirements of Metro Manila.

The series of water shortages that Metro Manila consistently suffers from is the most palpable testament to this water crisis. We are all witnesses to the manner by which our fellow Filipinos are being forced, albeit subtly, to conserve water while those who are relatively well-off are allowed to frolic in their showers. We are all silent bystanders to the constant parade of water trucks that set out to deliver water rations to our fellow Filipinos. Some of us may even have experienced contending with two to three decent baths a week due to scarce water supply. The glaring truth is this: Angat Dam, by itself, is no longer a sustainable source of water supply for the whole of Metro Manila. During the first quarter of this year, Angat Dam has reached its lowest level in history at ONE HUNDRED FIFTY SEVEN (157) Meters Above Sea Level (MASL). The Critical Normal level is ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY (180) MASL and the normal level is TWO HUNDRED TEN (210) MASL. This explains the significant reduction in the water allocation to Manila Water and Maynilad from FORTY SIX (46) Cubic Meters per Second (CMS) to THIRTY TWO (32) CMS or a difference of FOURTEEN (14) CMS. For the layman, this spells out the water shortage. For the common tao, this is the reason why he does not have enough potable water to drink and the reason why he does not have enough to enjoy a decent shower everyday.

To make matters worse, there have been reports that the 42-year-old Angat Dam already poses a threat to our national security. Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, findings by experts warn that that the main dike of the Angat Dam sits on the West Valley fault which is part of the Marikina Fault Line System. No less than the Philippine Institute of Volcanology (Phivolcs) confirm that in the last one thousand (1,000) years, the Marikina Fault Line recorded four strong earthquakes nearing magnitude 7 on the Richter scale. The findings provide that the interval of the major movement of the West Valley fault, where Angat Dam sits, is between 200 and 400 years and that the lower interval of 200 years had already passed. Add to this the reports by Dumagat tribesmen living within the Angat Watershed and other agencies who have conducted studies on the site that the Angat Dam has developed cracks throughout the years and suffers from major seepage which could eventually severely damage the structure. Mr. President, should the Angat Dam collapse, God forbid, due to the aforementioned factors, our country shall be faced with a catastrophe that we, as a nation, and as a government, are undoubtedly ill-equipped and unprepared for. I believe the picture is readily apparent - among other obvious consequences, a large number of towns shall be submerged, and Metro Manila, our nation's seat of power and finance, shall be left with no water and electricity.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I do not intend to sound like a dooms-day preacher. But surely, these revelations which have lingered along the halls of our government for quite a while already do not deserve scant consideration. I raise a basic inquiry, primarily as a citizen: what action plan has our government undertaken in order to address this very alarming problem? I wonder, Mr. President, if concerned agencies such as the MWSS and the NWRB have conducted studies to explore other alternative sources of sustainable water supply for generations to come. I understand that there are three viable alternative sources, namely: the Laiban Dam, the Laguna de Bay, and the Wawa Dam. Of these possible alternatives, I agree with our Honorable Senate President, that the reactivation of Wawa Dam appears to be the most feasible and most cost-effective. While Laiban Dam, reportedly, would take about ten years to become operational and Laguna de Bay would be too expensive to even consider, the reactivation of Wawa Dam would only take less than a year and be of less cost to the government given its existing rights of way and pipelines. If we recall, Mr. President, Metro Manila depended on Wawa Dam as its main source of potable water from 1908 until 1968 when Angat Dam became operational.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, this government is clearly not left without any options. It is therefore quite interesting how this government and its concerned agencies, particularly the MWSS and the NWRB, have remained mum despite the clear and present threat to our country's stability. I can never overemphasize how imperative a sustainable water supply is to our country's economic and national security. Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I rise in an attempt to challenge this government and its concerned agencies, particularly the MWSS and the NWRB to heed this clarion call and address this alarming problem that our country is facing. "There's a leak, Mr. President, and our dam is on shaky ground. Let's not just sit while our plumbers are nowhere to be found!"

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I urge this august body to conduct the necessary investigation and consequently pass the needed legislation in order to ensure sustainable water supply for our country and ultimately arrest this looming catastrophe.

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