The Aquino administration should consider other options to solve the water supply problem in Metro Manila expected over the next 20 years as claimed by Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), instead of pursuing a monstrous dam in Tanay, Rizal, the Freedom from Debt Coalition said Tuesday.

Ricardo B. Reyes, FDC president, said among the options the government should consider are: first, the promotion of water conservation instead of projecting increased water consumption; second, the continuation of Non-Revenue Water (NRW) reduction or water loss of the two MWSS concessionaires, namely Maynilad and Manila Water; and, third, a comprehensive exploration of small-scale surface water development projects.

“Whether the government plans to construct a dam or two, the fact is that a repackaged Laiban Dam is still a large dam. It is based on shaky demand projections that encourage increased water consumption as opposed to water conservation, and neglected globally-accepted concerns and recommendations against large dam projects,” said Reyes.

“Moreover, the government continues to ignore the strong objections of many groups, most especially that of the indigenous people of the Dumagats and the Remontados who have been fighting against the construction of Laiban Dam for more than 30 years now,” Reyes said. He added that a previous estimate of 4,413 families is to be relocated, and a larger number outside the reservoir area will be at risk of flooding from any possible dam breaks.

In 1978, the MWSS had identified the Kaliwa River Basin to be the most viable alternative source of water for Metro Manila residents. Various administrations had revived and scrapped the project since.

Recently, MWSS administrator Gerardo Esquivel, in a briefing, disclosed over P100 billion worth of water projects in the medium- to long-term period, including the revival of the controversial Laiban Dam. Included in the new water projects are the P85-billion “New Centennial Water Source project,” the P15-billion distribution facility and treatment plant in Bulacan and the P5.3-billion Angat improvement.

Esquivel’s deputy, Nathaniel Santos, told the media that “the design of our proposed dam is different from the previous Laiban project, although they are at the same location.” The new project design will involve the construction of one main dam at the upper Kaliwa River in Laiban and another dam to regulate water downstream.

“Time and again, we have been urging the government to explore better options if indeed there is threat of a water crisis,” said Reyes.

FDC reminded the government the general rule which the World Commission on Dams has laid down: “Where other options offer better solutions, they should be favored over large dams.”

Same output, increased cost

Old studies on the Laiban Dam estimate that it would be able to supply a total volume of 1,900 million liters per day (MLD). FDC is questioning the MWSS’ recent commissioned study because it revealed that “Metro Manila may experience a shortfall of about 1,900 million MLD by 2037.”

In 2007, the estimated cost for the project has been pegged at ₱48 Billion (US$1.16 billion, US$1=₱41.401), the costliest infrastructure project thus far to be implemented by the MWSS.

In 2009, the amount increased to ₱52 billion when San Miguel Corp., led by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuanco, submitted an unsolicited proposal to the government to construct the dam.

“The proposed amount of ₱85 billion or US$2.09 billion (US$1=₱40.653) of the repackaged Laiban Dam is way too high for the same 1,900 MLD output,” said Reyes.

“Again, we urge the Aquino administration to abandon the Laiban Dam project and explore other options,” said Reyes. -30-

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