President Marcos’s agenda on resolving the water crisis will include Laguna de Bay, the biggest freshwater lake in the Philippines, which is now threatened by the continued discharge of industrial pollutants resulting in the deterioration of its water quality.
The Laguna de Bay solution forms part of what the President said is an “overall plan” to address the looming water crisis since water from the lake is also used as a source of drinking water for Metro Manila residents. Thus, there is a need to ensure that the quality of water in the lake is not affected by chemicals, which makes it difficult for the water to be processed as drinking water.
“All of these things we have already put up together—we have already [put] together [an] overall plan. Now, we have to implement it. There are many agencies that are concerned when it comes to water management. So we have to make it more cohesive,” PBBM said when asked how his administration will address the water crisis.
This means that the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), which oversees the implementation of measures to ensure that industrial pollutants are not discharged into the lake, will have to act fast especially with the looming El Niño threat that PAGASA had flagged this coming month. After all, Maynilad Water Services, which services the West Zone, sources 300 million liters of water per day from the lake.
Aware of the looming water crisis, the President had set up the Office of Water Management, which will be under the Office of the President, to monitor the situation. That means LLDA will have to continuously monitor the discharge of industrial pollutants into the lake so that the processing of drinking water will not be affected.
The latest LLDA data showed that there is a high concentration of blue-green algae in the lake, a form of bacteria that adversely affects both water quality and the filtration system in the lake. Thus, the LLDA deployed more than a hundred solar-powered paddle wheels to prevent the growth of the algae.
The challenge for LLDA to conform with President Marcos’ agenda on addressing the water crisis is to address the worsening turbidity in the Laguna lake water as this prolongs the processing of drinking water and may even result in the cut-off in supply. Aggravating the situation is the fact that parts of the Laguna lake has become shallow to as low as two meters due to siltation that strong gusts of wind can easily stir up sediments in the lake bed—making the raw water highly turbid.
We understand that Maynilad’s monitoring of the lake’s water quality showed that the water’s Nephelometric Turbidity Units reached 154 levels in April and a high of 233 NTU from May 1 to 7. Ideally, the lake’s NTU should be below 100 or ranging from only 40 to 70.
This is a big challenge for LLDA and the Office of Water Management even as they look elsewhere for other sources of water for the metropolis, such as the installation of rainwater cisterns, to avert a crisis. But what LLDA can do is to fully monitor the pollutants that are dumped into the lake as these contribute to the water’s turbidity.
Government agencies need to help in the President’s economic agenda to make the Philippines a middle-income nation, and that means pursuing in their own turf the delivery of government services such as that of clean water, part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal. Freeing President Marcos from these mundane and tedious tasks will give him more time to concentrate on making the economy grow.
President Marcos has been at the forefront of moves to put vigor in the economy, traveling to foreign shores to pitch the country’s investment potential and address inefficiencies in the government as he embarks on an ambitious plan to make jobs available here. So far, he has been successful in roping in foreign direct investments to benefit the economy.
But then, he also needs the help of government bureaucrats, and he needs not address his sights on small items like the Laguna Lake turbidity that can be addressed fully on the ground.