ASIA WATER COUNCIL MEET PUTS PH WATER CRISIS ON SPOTLIGHT
For the first time, the Philippines is hosting the Asian Water Council 8th Board of Council (BoC) Meeting, 3rd General Assembly and Elections for the first time this month, which could put on the spotlight the current water crisis plaguing the country.
Several areas in Metro Manila under the coverage of Manila Water Co. Inc. has been suffering on water interruptions and shortages for several days due to the critical water levels at the La Mesa dam. The water shortage is likely to persist until May.
This year’s conference will be held from March 14-15 at Makati Diamond Residences in Makati City, according to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco said that there are some 200 global water and environment experts expected to attend the two-day conference co-hosted by the agency along with its concessionaires Manila Water Co. Inc., Maynilad Water Services Inc., and Luzon Clean Water Development Corp. (LCWDC).
“It is an honor for us to be hosting this event at a time when our government is vigorously undertaking the Build, Build, Build program that includes water infrastructure projects,” Velasco said.
“The country’s hosting of the event will bring in member organizations involved in the water sector industry giving them the opportunity to explore areas where cooperation with MWSS and its concessionaires can be established,” he added.
Manila Water President and Chief Executive Officer Ferdinand dela Cruz welcomes the holding of the AWC activities in Manila as an opportunity for further collaboration between government and the private sector.
“Our experience and track record demonstrate the positive results that arise from the productive partnership of government and the private sector,” dela Cruz said.
Maynilad Water Services, meanwhile, fully supports AWC, cognizant of the fact that both share the same goal of providing safe water and sanitation facilities as enunciated in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
“Through the improvement of water supply and distribution, and continuous improvement in our wastewater facilities, our efforts have contributed to bringing about a better life for our customers,” Maynilad President and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez said.
For Head of the Operations Group of San Miguel Holdings Corporation and the authorized representative of Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation Engineer Edgar Doña, the conference is an opportunity where water agencies around the world can discuss the problems and the solutions to water challenges.
He lauded MWSS for hosting the international gathering. “It is indeed an honor for our organization to be co-hosting this event. Being the newest concessionaire of MWSS, this occasion will allow us to interact with other organizations engaged in the water industry sector,” Doña stated.
Asia Water Council seeks to address water usage, natural environment protection, and natural hazard mitigation. For its mission, AWC aims to “encourage mutual growth and sustainable development by involving the stakeholders in water through building a cooperative tie with the leading world water organizations.”
Its strategy is geared towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted as the blueprint to a more sustainable future for all.
These SDGs address challenges of poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.
The council, currently headed by currently headed by K-Water president Hak Soo Lee, will provide a platform for the establishment of a cooperative network to address water challenges in Asia and adopt of Smart Water Management Initiative.
Previous AWC BoC meetings were held in Bali, Indonesia; Singapore; Beijing, China; Bangkok, Thailand; and in the cities of Andong, Gyeongju, and Daejeon in South Korea.
The BoC composed of 25 Board Organizations – both government and private institutions – include Asian Institute of Technology, Daegu Metropolitan City, Food and Agriculture Organization, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Global Water Partnership Central Asia and Caucasus, Indonesia Water Institute, Indonesian Association of Hydraulic Engineers, K-Water, Korea International Cooperation Agency, Korea Water Forum, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, @qua-Smart ICT for Water, Tokyo City University, Ministry of Energy and Mines of Laos, Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology of Cambodia, Ministry Water Services Regulatory of Mongolia, and Tropical Marine Science Institute-National University of Singapore.
On the other hand, the AWC boasts of over 100 organizations as members, including MWSS concessionaires Manila Water, Maynilad and LCWDC and international organizations and non-government organizations, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.
Meanwhile, Malacañang is also figuring out alternatives on this water catastrophe. The palace said that relief from the Metro Manila water crisis may have to wait for the onset of the rains, though cloud-seeding was also an option, with the Department of Agriculture saying it ordered seeding in areas of Central Luzon that could help fill the capital’s reservoirs.
“Ang problema yata eh ang tubig eh manggagaling sa langit; walang ulan, ‘pag walang ulan papa’no, baka mag-aantay tayo,” (The problem is that the water has to come from the sky, and if there is no rain we may have no choice, maybe we’ll wait.) the President’s spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said.
On the other side, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that he instructed the department’s regional offices to conduct cloud seeding in Bulacan, Pampanga and Rizal in response to El Niño.
“Operations Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan of the Department of Agriculture (DA) [has been instructed] to order the DA Regional Offices to implement cloud seeding operations,” Mr. Piñol said in a social media post while visiting Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya.
“Usec. Cayanan was also directed to coordinate with the Philippine Air Force for the cloud-seeding operations over Bulacan, Pampanga, and Rizal (to increase the sources of water for) La Mesa Dam,” Mr. Piñol added.
“As early as last year, funds were transferred to the Regional Offices and the Philippine Air Force for cloud-seeding operations in preparation for El Niño,” he assured.
The DA estimated a crop damage from El Niño at P464.27 million, affecting 13,679 hectares of agricultural land.
“We are always concerned with respect to any problem affecting the welfare of the people,” Mr. Panelo said in the briefing on Monday when asked to comment on the water crisis in Metro Manila.
He said cloud seeding is a “possibility, but added he is not aware if the President has officially ordered it.
“Kung meron man, hindi ko alam. But, I am sure meron nang ginawa (If any instructions were issued, I am not aware of them. But I am sure something has been done) “he said. “I have to ask the President exactly what were the instructions.”