By Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco (ret.)
THE privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System in 1997 is a stroke of master stroke of a genius of then President Fidel Ramos. Without it, we cannot have achieved our total serviced area now at 96 percent, as well as reduced unaccounted-for water at 11 percent by Manila Water and 29 percent by Maynilad.
One important aspect and enduring effect of the successful legal framework of the public-private partnership between MWSS and its concessionaires is the fact that these two water partners have shared their best practices to other parts of the country and also to our Asean neighbors like Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia and Cambodia.
At present, MWSS sources 95.6 percent of its total water supply from the Angat and Umiray Rivers and 4 percent from the Laguna Lake. The remaining supply, 0.4 percent, comes from groundwater sources. It is for this reason that we need to reduce our dependency on Angat Dam which supplies most of the water in Metro Manila.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has identified 143 critical watersheds throughout the country. Of these critical watersheds, the six of these watersheds that impact greatly on the water supply of Metro Manila are the Umiray, Angat, Ipo, La Mesa, Marikina and Laguna Lake watersheds.
Recognizing the importance of watersheds in supporting the water supply of Metro Manila and adjoining provinces, MWSS has embarked on projects geared towards the sustainable management of watersheds.
As the MWSS prepares to celebrate its 140th founding anniversary in February 2018, it launched the Annual Million Tree Challenge, a reforestation project to benefit the six critical watersheds. AMTC aims to plant a million trees for the duration of the Duterte administration. Launched last June 23, 2017 at Ipo Dam, AMTC exceeded the one million trees target.
Multipartite stakeholders pledged some 1.5 million trees. Aside from MWSS in which we pledged 50,000 trees, participating agencies included MWSS Regulatory Office with a commitment to plant 20,000 trees, Manila Water at 130,000 trees, Maynilad at 130,000 trees, DENR Region IV-A at 204,000 trees, DENR Region 3 at 500,000 trees, DENR NCR at 30,000 trees, DepEd at 100,000 trees, Bantay Kalikasan at 130,000 trees, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at 37,000 trees, Philippine Water Works Association at 20,000 trees, UP Mountaineers at 500 trees, local government units of General Nakar and Bulacan at 100,000 trees, the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines at 500 trees, the Rotary Club, Jaycees, Kiwanis, students from various universities and colleges and DepEc through Secretary Briones and Usec Alain del Pascua also contributed substantial number of trees to be planted.
Our MWSS chairman, retired Judge Franklin Demonteverde, himself a stalwart of the Freemason Philippines, has rallied the support of his mason brothers to support the AMTC.
Newly confirmed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has also thrown in his full support to the AMTC. He outrightly approved the creation of a multi-agency task force through a joint circular involving other agencies such as the DILG, DepED, LGUs, LLDA and Napocor as well as the formation of respective watershed management councils similar to the La Mesa Watershed Management Council that recently approved a 25-year sustainable plan.
Through our collective efforts, we will do wonders in watershed protection to ensure sustainable water supply to future generations. As the famous painter Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Water is the driving force of all nature.”
Gen. Velasco is the administrator of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.