Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Wednesday called for the faster construction of the China-funded New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, amid the ongoing water shortage in Metro Manila.
"Had this been done before, the water crisis would be much less serious or much less of a threat," he told reporters at a press conference in Manila.
The P18.724-billion Kaliwa Dam project seeks to develop a new water source in order to meet the National Capital Region's increasing water demand.
The final loan agreement was scheduled to be signed by government officials of both the Philippines and China in November 2018.
Dominguez in 2017 earlier signed a financing agreement for the Kaliwa Dam in which China would provide soft loans estimated at $234.92 million covering Phase 1-Kaliwa Dam, and Phase 2-Laiban Dam.
Prior to this, however, the Kaliwa Dam project was initially set to be constructed under the government's public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
"The process of bidding out and awarding is well on its way and I'm sure that MWSS will urge their contractors to move faster than originally planned," said Dominguez.
Within Duterte's term
The MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System), for its part, said that the dam could be finished by 2022.
During a briefing on the dwindling water supply in Metro Manila, MWSS administrator Reynaldo Velasco emphasized the need for additional sources of water.
"...We cannot wait for Kaliwa [Dam], which is scheduled to be finished in 2023," Velasco said.
"But, again, we are pushing the contractor China Energy to make sure that the Kaliwa Dam, which was started during the Duterte administration, should be completed before President Duterte steps down and they are assuring me that before 2022, they hope to finish this project," he added.
During the briefing, Velasco explained that a critical part of the project was the 27-kilometer tunnel that would connect the water source to a treatment plant.
"We have already agreed with the contractor that, instead of just going from one place, or one point straight all the way, I asked them if they could do it from both ends," he said.
"If they can do that, I think they can finish that before the end of 2022," he added.
Residents in several parts of Metro Manila have been struggling to go about their daily lives as the water levels at the La Mesa Dam continue to drop due to El Nino.
As some lawmakers seek clarification from water concessionaires on the problem, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he will order an investigation into the supposed water shortage.
The Chinese loan for the Kaliwa Dam sparked controversy, with several groups, including think tank Infrawatch PH and environment organization Haribon foundation, have opposed against it. — with Margaret Claire Layug/BM, GMA News