MWSS: Water bypass was never closed

MANILA, Philippines – The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) countered claims circulating on social media that the agency ordered the closure of a bypass facility, which diverts water from Angat Dam directly to Manila Water’s treatment plants. 

According to comments made by Angel Salazar, a former MWSS employee and posted by Facebook user Myles Jamito, the water crisis in Metro Manila and Rizal could have been avoided if only the bypass was opened.

Here is an illustration of how the bypass works:

Illustration by Ernest Fiestan/Rappler

MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty called the allegations of Salazar as “fake news.”

Ty said the bypass was always open and he never called for the closure of the portal.

He also said Manila Water has been drawing some 1,600 million liters per day (MLD) from the bypass. Ty added that the water distributed from consumers come from the said bypass, as the La Mesa dam’s supply has been depleted.

If the bypass was always open, why the water shortage? Ty explained that the high demand was still the main reason for the supply shortage.

Metro Manila’s demand has reached some 1,750 MLD, which means that the 1,600 MLD from Angat Dam drawn from the bypass is still not enough.

The deficit of some 150 MLD was provided by La Mesa Dam. (EXPLAINER: What caused Manila Water's service problems?)

Industry sources said the deficit was equivalent to the demand of areas as big as Marikina and Quezon City combined.

Ty said Manila Water had "miscalculated" the supply and demand numbers, which resulted to the shortage. 

He also said the Ayala-led concessionaire banked on the opening of its water facility in Cardona, Rizal, in December 2018. When it did not go as planned, the deficit happened.

How is the shortage being addressed? Ty said Manila Water's facility in Cardona, Rizal was recently opened to provide some 10 MLD. 

Deep wells were also tapped to keep up with demand.

Manila Water has also deployed floating pumps to the La Mesa dam to draw water out, since water cannot reach the aqueduct gates.

Will Manila Water be penalized? Ty said the concession agreement for both Maynilad and Manila Water does not grant the MWSS powers to penalize or impose a fine.

Ty said the said disciplinary powers may be available to the proposed Department of Water, which has not gained traction in Congress.

When will water supply return to normal? Ty said they are hoping for the situation to return to normal by April.

Manila Water earlier said “until it rains.”

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday ordered the MWSS to demand that Manila Water and Maynilad release water from the Angat Dam starting noontime of March 15, good for 150 days, to solve the water supply problem in affected areas.  – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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