By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
MANILA – The government is sparing no effort to ensure water security amid a looming El Niño, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) said on Saturday.
NWRB executive director Sevillo David Jr. said the government is looking for more water sources and monitoring existing ones to make sure the country has adequate supply once El Niño hits full throttle.
“Meron po tayong tinatawag na whole-of-government approach para mapangalagaan itong water security natin sa napipintong El Niño (We have the so-called whole-of-government approach to ensure water security amid a looming El Niño),” David said during the Saturday News Forum at Dapo Restaurant in Quezon City.
“Meron tayong iba’t ibang ahensya at sektor ng ating pamahalaan na naghahanda. Pinaghahandaan po ang posibleng pagpasok ng El Niño ngayong taon na ito (We have various government agencies and sectors that are already preparing for a possible El Niño crisis this year).”
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said recent conditions and model forecasts indicate an 80-percent probability that El Niño would emerge between June and August and may persist until the first quarter of 2024.
El Niño increases the likelihood of below-normal rainfall conditions, which could cause dry spells and droughts in some areas.
In other areas, above-normal rainfall conditions during the southwest monsoon season (habagat) may also be expected.
David said the NWRB is monitoring the level of the country’s water reservoirs, especially the Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan, considering a reduced supply during the dry spell.
Angat Dam supplies more than 90 percent of the water requirements of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
“Sa kasalukuyan ay nasa normal na lebel ang Angat Dam at kaya po nating bigyan ‘yung pangangailangan ng water supply sa Metro Manila (To date, the water level in Angat Dam is still normal so we can provide the water supply needed in Metro Manila),” he said.
Jose Dorado Jr., Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) deputy administrator for engineering and technical operations, said there is a master plan to avert a possible water crisis during the dry season.
Dorado mentioned that water concessionaire Maynilad Water Services Inc.’s modular water treatment plant in Cavite and a new water treatment plant in Parañaque City are among the initiatives undertaken to ensure adequate supply in the country.
Manila Water Co. Inc. and the other concessionaire, Maynilad, also operate deep wells that could help augment the water supply when Angat Dam’s supply depletes.
Meanwhile, MWSS Corporate Office division manager Patrick Dizon said they have sought the assistance of Singapore’s Public Utility Board to address the poor quality of water in Laguna province.
“Ang challenges na na-e-experience natin sa Laguna, hindi maganda ang water quality (One of the challenges we are experiencing in Laguna is the poor quality of water),” Dizon said. “Nakipag-coordinate kami sa Public Utility Board ng Singapore. Sila ay pupunta sa Manila next week para i-assess (We coordinated with the Public Utility Board of Singapore. They will come to Manila next week to assess [the situation in Laguna]).”
He noted that they have sought guidance for correct operation or technology.
Data from the Laguna Lake Development Authority showed a high concentration of blue-green algae, a bacterium that affects water quality but serves as food for bangus (milkfish) and tilapia.
“Maynilad began dredging the portion of the lake near its facility’s intake structure to minimize vulnerability to spikes in turbidity,” the company said in a recent statement. “It has also been replacing the filters of its treatment plants more frequently than the filter’s expected lifespan.”
In April, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. sought a whole-of-government approach and the institution of protocol-based and scientific long-term processes that would address El Niño.
Marcos ordered government agencies to prepare for the possible impacts and to intensify the campaign to increase public awareness of water and energy conservation. (PNA)