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Wawa, naman

(Article published in the Oct 14, 2009 issue of Manila Standard Today)  

Before Angat, there was Wawa.  Built by the Americans in 1908, the Wawa Dam, located in Montalban, Rizal, at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains, supplied the needs of Metro Manila up 1968.  It was abandoned in favor of Angat Dam by then President Marcos who was allegedly worried that his tenure in Malacanang was in danger of being shortened if Wawa Dam were to burst inundating the Palace.

 As a consequence, millions of gallons now flow over the Wawa dam, into Marikina, on to the Pasig river, and out towards Manila Bay. Now that Angat Dam is, by virtue of its sitting atop an earthquake fault, undeniably not only vulnerable to the shifting of the earth but also inadequate as Manila’s sole water source, its time to call back into service this trusty and faithful servant.  Rehabilitating Wawa is, I submit, a much better option than developing Laiban.

 Whereas Laiban Dam would not be ready to deliver its first glass of water long after we have all gone thirsty, with just minor renovation Wawa Dam can be made operational to deliver in eight months 50 million liters per day (MLD).  Further enhancements made over the years could coax it to yield to 1400 MLD.


That’s because its watershed area is about 27,700 hectares, almost equivalent to Laiban’s 28,000, and is 3 times the size of La Mesa dam’s which has only 2,100 ha. In addition to water, the Wawa dam is also capable of delivering 300 to 500 megawatts of  electricity easing, on the side, Metro Manila’s power needs.

Transporting the water from Wawa is only a short 11 kilometers to the Balara treatment plant of Manila Water Corporation Inc. (MWCI) and 20 to Maynilad’s at La Mesa.  With an altitude of 700 to 1400 meters above sea level, Wawa dam, fed by two waterfalls and rivers, needs only one pumping station to drive the water to its destination; the force of gravity does the rest.  Compare this to the three that MWCI currently needs to cover the distance from Antipolo to Balara.

 Wawa, unlike Laiban, does not have the headache of driving out and looking for relocation sites for informal settlers. Instead of the 5,000 (most likely 10,000 by now) families of informal settlers complete with schoolhouses, community centers and social infrastructure in Laiban, there are only about 300 in Wawa, mostly agricultural and can be easily found a relocation site.

 All these translate into reduced cost:  studies indicate that water from Wawa could cost as low as only P11.00 per cubic meter if untreated and P16.00 per cubic meter if treated.  In contrast, water from Laiban is expected to cost a P45.00 per cubic meter.  Needless to say, the differential will be eventually borne by way of additional cost by Metro Manila’s water consuming population.

 It is thus no wonder that Wawa was the water source of choice not just of the Americans but also by our water industry.  As early as December 14, 1978, barely 10 years after Angat was commissioned, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) issued to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) a permit to draw water from the Wawa Boso and Tayabasan Rivers in Montalban Rizal.

 On August 6, 1993, another group, the VC Development Corporation and the San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders and Developers Group, Inc., filed for a permit also to draw water from the same source.

 And more recently, it seemed to be the apple of the powerful’s eyes.  Thus, on 01 October 2001, Primer B. Loren  of Manila Water Company Inc. (MWCI) indicated to Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) that the latter’s water permit application for Wawa Dam “will support our Wawa Dam Water System Reactivation Project…” Consequently, said MWSS to Hector Dayrit of the National Water Resources Board, “we fully support this application” apparently because it, as previously claimed, is expected “to support our Wawa Dam Water System Reactivation Project…”

 And barely four days thereafter, Deputy Administrator Macra A. Cruz, writing to Hector A. Dayrit, director at the National Water Resources Board, in a verbatim copy of the heart of  MWCI’s letter to MWSS, declared that, on the basis of their investigation report, “the said area will support our Wawa Dam Water System Reactivation Project…we fully support this application.”

 Then, Wawa all of a sudden found itself “out-of-the kulambo.”  In a letter dated 15 April 2009 signed by Diosdado Jose M. Allado, Administrator of MWSS, stated “In the 2008 rate rebasing of Manila Water Company Inc. (MWCI), the Wawa River Project was no longer included as a source of water supply for East Zone area.”

  What caused the 180° turn, only the Holy Spirit knows.  But then, perhaps, maybe the Devil has an inkling.  We shall see.