Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo acknowledges the Manila Water shortage may be ‘artificial’

Amid the National Kidney Transplant Institute being forced to cut down their number of dialysis patients and reports of people spending hours in line for a single pail of water comes the infuriating possibility that this water crisis is not, in fact, a crisis. Rather, it is heavily suggested that the water shortage was artificially constructed and applied. The reason is anyone’s guess.

This belief is shared by Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo. On March 14, during a Palace news briefing, he expressed doubts about the veracity of the water crisis. He is recorded as saying: “May nabasa kasi akong hindi raw totoo eh.” [I read something that said the shortage wasn’t true]

He later clarified that he was talking about a message from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stating that the Angat Dam, which supplies 96% of Metro Manila’s water, was not yet at a critical level. There was also information that Maynilad, which also sources its supply of water from the Angat Dam, was not having a water shortage.

He is quoted as saying:

Yun nga sinasabi eh, parang ‘yun ang gist ng sinasabi ni Secretary Lorenzana dun sa kanyang chat na the water comes from Angat Dam and there is no shortage as far as that particular dam is concerned. Puno, walang kulang, so bakit nagkakakulangan ‘yung distribution?

[That’s what it says, the gist of what Secretary Lorenzana is saying in his chat is the water comes from Angat Dam and there is no shortage as far as that particular dam is concerned. It’s full, it’s not lacking, so why is the distribution failing?]

I said it could be just inefficiency, mismanagement. In that case, it’s only an artificial shortage because if the source is full and another concessionaire is also full, why is the other one not having problems?

Because the water reservoirs are privately owned by Maynilad and Manila Water it must be understood that this is merely speculation from the Presidential spokesperson. Yet, this line of questioning is one repeated by several citizens.

Since Manila Water blames the low water level at La Mesa Dam and the high demand for water, why are they unable to use the supply from Angat Dam instead? Maynilad has already stated they would allow Manila Water access to their share of the water. So far, Manila Water has not released any information on any courses of action they plan to take in order to address the shortage, other than scheduling water interruptions.

As people long for answers which don’t seem likely to appear, they begin to make their own conclusions. A popular theory is that the artificial water crisis paves way for the coming of the Kaliwa Dam, which will be funded by Chinese Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). A long-term solution like the Kaliwa Dam is more likely to be hailed and forgiven its flaws if it comes on the heels of an emergency.

Another contention is that the artificial crisis serves as justification for the water concessionaires to hike up prices. Given the numerous price hikes over the years, people are beginning to question if a public good such as water really ought to be privately owned and controlled.

Perhaps the tamest of allegations is that both these water concessionaires and the State are simply incompetent. Despite warnings of such a crisis as early as 2016 there were no preemptive measures in place to stall it, nor any safety nets. People complain of faulty pipes, slow dam projects, and bypasses being ordered to close.

(Manila Water: Water shortage may last until August)

But again, this is all merely speculation. The only thing clear about this situation is that no one really knows what’s happening. What do you think is the cause and reason behind the water crisis?

Sources: PCOO

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