With the projected El Niño phenomenon seen hitting the country next year, and its recurring episodes, there is the attendant problem of water security that needs to be addressed through a whole-of-nation approach. And it is a good thing that the government was able to allow the efficiency of the private sector in ensuring water sustainability and security.
For there were times in the past when the flow of water to the taps was a problem due to the inefficiencies in government services. Thus, the privatization of the then NAWASA was a step ahead of what the United Nations wanted countries to address via the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
SDG No. 6 refers to “clean water and sanitation,” which is intertwined with SDG No. 3: good health and well-being. And that is what the private sector utilities, the Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services, have been undertaking where they run smack into a multitude of problems such as aging pipes, non-revenue water, and water quality. But the private sector has remained steadfast in its resolve to provide water sustainability and security.
We understand that in the problematic West Zone, Maynilad Water Services is set to spend about P26 billion in capital expenditures this year to ensure a sustainable water future that is now bedeviled by the El Nino phenomenon. That is almost double its expenditures last year of P14 billion.
That capital outlay went to the construction of four modular water treatment plants, two in Imus, which will be energized before the end of the year, and two in Bacoor, set to be completed by the end of next year. These plants will treat water from Laguna Lake and provide additional water of up to 18 million liters per day.
We understand that Maynilad is digging deep into the pockets of its shareholders, Metro Pacific Investments Corp., DMCI Holdings and Marubeni Corp., to further address the need for additional water as well as improve its non-revenue water program, where it has earmarked P6 billion.
For its water management systems, it has allotted P163.3 billion until 2027 to ensure water security for the West Zone. This investment is aimed at addressing various aspects of water management and infra needs to allow for long-term viability and quality of water resources. In fact, it has even embarked on a water reuse project that involves treated effluent of its sewage treatment plant.
The infra needs of Maynilad is staggering. It involves laying down 55 kilometers of new primary water lines, the replacement of 639 kilometers of aging pipes, repair of 111,000 pipe leaks, construction of five pumping stations and reservoirs, and the rehabilitation of 17 existing ones.
By 2027, Maynilad will have piped water to 103,084 new customers, which translates to about 700,000 customers who will have access to potable water. That in turn will reduce the mortality rate for drinking unsafe water. The data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that there were 53,066 Filipinos who died due to water-borne diseases between 2010 and 2019.
So far, Maynilad has spent a total of P210 billion to improve its infrastructure in 15 years, and it is set to further increase its investments to achieve the water security that has become the new norm. In fact, it has contracts amounting to P222 billion for the various projects it will undertake to provide water security to its assigned West Zone.
Maynilad has been able to craft new strategies to address the problems related to water security, which also embraces good health and well being of the United Nations SDG goals meant to address poverty among nations as well as ensure better quality of life for the world’s citizens. And it has dug deep into its pockets to ensure this.
But the government has to revisit Maynilad’s concession agreement with the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage Authority, which ends on May 6, 2037, while its franchise expires 10 years from then. Extending the agreement will result in lower water rates as there is a 10-year extra period with which the company will have to recoup its investments under allowable terms. That will help assure water security in the areas that the company serves.