Tagaytay tourism taking water away from Cavite residents?
MANILA, Philippines – Environmentalists and concerned citizens of Cavite filed a petition for Writ of Kalikasan on Wednesday, June 18, to scrap a project that threatens the province's water supply.
The Save Water in Indang Movement (SWIM) accuses PTK2 H2O Corporation of building a dam and water delivery pipes aimed at extracting more water than is sustainable from 3 major watersheds in Cavite. (READ: Bulacan deforestation 'drying up' Metro Manila water supply)
The project is for PTK2 H2O to fulfill a contract it signed with the Tagaytay City Water District (TCWD) in 2012. A government-owned and controlled corporation, the TCWD contracted the company to supply 50,000 cubic meters of water a day to be delivered to Tagaytay City's commercial establishments, hotels, and real estate projects.
This amount of water, however, is more than the 3 watersheds can supply if they are also to provide water for the 12 other local government units surrounding them.
The project "allows the extraction of water ultimately for commercial and industrial use in the single City of Tagaytay to the prejudice of domestic and municipal appropriation for 12 cities and municipalities of Cavite Province in violation of the Water Code," reads the petition.
The 50,000 cubic meters a day is 77.1% of the total amount of water discharged by the 4 major rivers that spring from the watersheds – 64,885.6 cubic meters a day.
According to Noel Sedigo, environmental scientist and chairman of the forestry department of Cavite State University (CSU), "the rule of thumb is that no more than 30% of a river's average flow can be taken out each year without risking a shortfall in supply every 20 years."
Respondents in the petition include the TCWD for entering into the contract, the National Water and Resources Board (NWRB) for granting PTK2 H2O the water rights to extract that volume of water, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region IV for issuing an Environmental Compliance Certificate without the required documents.
'Environmentally critical project'
The TCWD entered into a contract with PTK2 H2O in April 2012 because it recognized that the current water supply of Tagaytay City would not be enough to sustain the many commercial establishments and hotels currently being built there.
Tagaytay City is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Luzon because of its cool climate and view of Taal Lake. Recent years have seen condominiums, restaurants, hotels, and even theme parks sprout all over the city.
"During the summer season, long holidays and weekends, water demand is expected to increase tremendously, even as high as double the normal demand, and upon completion and full operation of all the ongoing establishments and hotels currently being built," reads the water supply contract.
Because of the city's "dire need of additional water resources," the NWRB granted PTK2 H2O the rights to source water from the 4 rivers generated by the watersheds and which flow from the town of Indang, namely the Ikloy, Indang, Lambak, and Saluysoy rivers.
At first, the contract was for 10,000 cubic meters a day or 3.6 million cubic meters a year. But a new contract, signed in July that year, was for the company to increase the volume to 50,000 cubic meters a day or 18.25 million cubic meters a year.
However, a study by the CSU in Indang shows that the 4 rivers are capable of delivering only 36,400 cubic meters a day. The study was commissioned to assess Cavite's bulk water supply.
"Practically the entire province of Cavite is sacrificed to benefit real estate moguls who seek to rake in billions in profits from their Tagaytay investments," decried SWIM legal counsel Renecio Espiritu.
Citing the study that he conducted for CSU – the result of 20 years worth of research on Cavite's ground and surface water system – Sedigo concludes in his affidavit that PTK2 H2O's project is an "environmentally critical project" with "severely adverse and dangerous effects to the environment."
No proper environmental assessment
SWIM also criticized DENR Region IV-A for issuing an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) without the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that would comprehensively assess the possible environmental hazards the project would cause.
PTK2 H2O also only secured the ECC after the water permits were issued.
"In other words, the ECC is incomplete and issued as an afterthought. Under the law, the ECC and the requisite EIS are conditions prior to and not after the issuance of permits," reads the petition.
The ECC allows the company to build an intake structure, booster pumps, flocculation and sedimentation basin, pressure filter tanks, effluent channels, booster pumping stations, water pipes, and administration buildings in the village of Kayquit II in Indang. PTK2 H2O has already begun construction on pavements and pumping stations.
The project also led to the cutting down of trees, some of which were native molave species, which also allegedly lacked an ECC.
The legal office of DENR Region IV-A told Rappler they cannot comment on the case because they have not yet received a copy of the petition.
"We will hold a technical conference hearing about the project on July 3. We will invite the complainant and other concerned stakeholders," said Faina Ifurung of the legal office.
Despite repeated attempts to call the PTK2 H2O office, Rappler was met by a busy phone line.
NWRB Executive Director Sevillo David Jr also said they cannot comment on the issue since they have yet to receive a copy of the petition.
However, he told Rappler that the permit issued to PTK2 H2O does not require an ECC beforehand based on the Water Code.
"Based on our procedures, an ECC is not required for issuance of a water permit. We have applications that require an ECC but in this case, since it is bulk water, an ECC is not required," he said.
Questioned on the alleged unsustainable amount of water his office allows PTK2 H2O to extract, Sevilla said, "We have to check on that because part of our technical assessment is to look at the availability of the supply of water. We have our own evaluation process." – Rappler.com