THE PLAN to build Kaliwa dam, the proposed new water source for Metro Manila, has again been tweaked, this time to accommodate funding from China, the top official of one of the capital’s water concessionaire

Ramoncito S. Fernandez, president and chief executive officer of Maynilad Water Services, Inc., said he was informed that state agencies Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of the changes.

“The information I got from both MWSS and NEDA, they’re saying it’s now ODA (official development assistance), Chinese ODA in fact, and they will present to the NEDA board scheduled June 13 for approval,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of BusinessWorld’s Economic Forum last Friday.

MWSS previously said the P18.72-billion Kaliwa dam is expected to deliver 600 million liters per day (MLD), adding to the existing supply of 4,132 MLD and enough to meet a demand of a little less than 4,000 by 2020.

The project — located in General Nakar and Infanta, Quezon province — used to be a public-private partnership (PPP) under the previous administration, but the change in political leadership saw the inclusion of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as co-implementor.

Known under the previous administration as the New Centennial Water Source, the project is meant to ease the city’s reliance on Angat dam, its main water source. It would also be the answer if the flow of water from the aging dam is cut off in case of a disaster.

In October, MWSS described the project’s status as midway through the procurement stage, with the issuance of bid documents coming by end-December to the two pre-qualified bidder — a consortium led by San Miguel Corp. and another by Datem, Inc.

Asked about what will happen to the two pre-qualifiers, Mr. Fernandez said: “It’s a question that MWSS and NEDA have to address.”

MWSS previously said the inclusion of DPWH as co-implementor of the project came after a review by the Department of Finance showed that the water agency might breach its debt ceiling once the project is transferred to it by the contractor. The DPWH will then receive the asset under the build-and-transfer scheme.

MWSS also said that the agency and the DPWH had agreed to an amortization payment schedule with the winning bidder. The previous tweaks have happened at a time when MWSS had been without an administrator.

Mr. Fernandez said the years 2022 to 2023 will be critical years for Maynilad if the project is not completed on time. Based on its previous schedule, Kaliwa dam should have been completed by 2020 if the project was bid out in 2015.

“To be blunt about it, it was needed yesterday. We’ve needed that dam since yesterday. We need to push it. It must happen whether ODA or PPP … We’re agnostic as long as it’s implemented,” Mr. Fernandez said.

He said Maynilad will know by 2018 how critical the problem of water supply will be in the coming years.

“We will know by, I think, next year. We will have a feel. And we still have enough time to react,” he said, referring to a move from the private sector to find an additional water source.

He declined to say what that source would be, but during the forum he said Maynilad was “looking at advanced treatment technologies that will allow us to harness other water sources such as sea water and/or reused water and make these safe for domestic and industrial use.”

“So far the new administration of MWSS has already mentioned that it’s ODA. It’s going to be pushed, but again signing is different from execution,” Mr. Fernandez said during the forum.

23 May 2017
By Victor V. Saulon