Worsening water shortage in Philippines triggers probe

Waiting to fill buckets at a water distribution point in Mandaluyong city, east of Manila, on Wednesday. Manila Water, which supplies half of the capital region, said the situation will return to normal when the rains come.
Waiting to fill buckets at a water distribution point in Mandaluyong city, east of Manila, on Wednesday. Manila Water, which supplies half of the capital region, said the situation will return to normal when the rains come.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA • The Philippine Senate will investigate a worsening water shortage in the capital region that has spread to the main business district in Makati City and will likely last for months.

Officials from Ayala Corp's Manila Water, whose tens of thousands of customers have been hit by water interruptions since the first week of this month will face a probe on Tuesday next week, Senator Grace Poe said in a statement.

Manila Water, which supplies half of the capital region, said the situation will return to normal when the rains come.

The interruptions lasting as long as 12 hours initially affected only dozens of villages. It has escalated to entire cities including Manila and Quezon City with longer outages. Some districts have gone without water for several days.

"We are calling this investigation because the public is already thirsty for the truth, now that they don't have water to drink and clean with," Ms Poe said.

More areas, including parts of Makati City, were to have no water supply for six hours to almost an entire day starting yesterday, Manila Water said on its Facebook page.

Officials from another water concessionaire, Maynilad Water Services, as well as from government agencies have also been invited to the hearing, Ms Poe said.

President Rodrigo Duterte is preparing an order for closer coordination of government agencies to address the problem, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a separate statement.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a briefing on Wednesday that the shortage would have been prevented if the China-funded Kaliwa Dam south of the capital was built earlier. Billionaire Enrique Razon is offering to build another dam.

Demand surged after Manila Water announced supply interruptions last week. La Mesa Dam's level has dropped to a 21-year low, ABS-CBN reported yesterday.

Manila Water said earlier this week that the shortage was caused by rising demand and delays in the operation of its Cardona water treatment plant that was supposed to augment supply. The start of summer aggravated supply woes.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2019, with the headline 'Worsening water shortage in Philippines triggers probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe