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Is the water shortage of 2019 real?

There have been so many conspiracy theories about the water shortage in Metro Manila, mainly because the elections are up in a couple of months and people are looking for at who they should be quartered and hanged for this smelly and waterless misfortune. Some social influencers say it should be the Duterte administration because they gave all the water to the Chinese and that the “bypass” has been closed to bring the water to the construction site of Kaliwa dam, etc, etc.

The water shortage is due to reduced rainfall, an effect of climate change.

These conspiracy theories are nice fodder for idle gossip, but many of these theories can actually poison the minds of the people and may even be a weaponized piece of intel. With some research, you will know that many of these rumors are still based on some truths, though wrongly and maliciously stitched together.

First, it preys on the prevailing hatred for the Mainland Chinese, which mostly comes from the West Philippine Sea issue. Many of our citizens see them as “alien invaders”, plus the increasing number of Chinese workers on Philippine soil has fueled this hatred even more. So the thought of the Chinese building the dams that is causing the water shortage sells faster than the idea that Pastor Quiboloy is the “appointed” son of God.

In November of 2018, Chinese president Xi Jin Ping made a state visit to the Philippines and alongside President Duterte, witnessed the signing of an Official Development Assistance (ODA), AKA a loan package that funded some projects including the construction of the Kaliwa Dam.

Back in 2014, during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino, the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWSP) was approved. This project was aimed at providing Metro Manila, the most resource-hungry area in country, with a strong supply of water for generations to come. The decision to undertake this project was a result of a proposal called the Water Security Legacy Roadmap which was first pitched in 2012, with a repeat of an old warning: that La Mesa Dam, being the sole water storage for Metro Manila, will not be enough for our water needs. Thus the proposal.

The NCWSP was on the right track when they decided that a redundancy should be in place. Two dams supporting each other, should be more than enough for our water needs now and in the years to come. The bigger Laiban Dam was to be built along the Kaliwa River, which the smaller Kaliwa Dam was to be built in Tanay, Rizal. However, the opposition from several groups made it near impossible to start the projects. There have been several talks about fast-tracking the construction of the Kaliwa Dam, but there is still no date as to when construction will begin. In the meantime, we suffer the shortage.

The water shortage is fast becoming a political issue and so many conspiracy theories have been coming out. It is becoming leverage for the opposition to make the administration look bad. A little research will reveal that these dams were approved and initially implemented by the former administration. Powerful institutions like the Church and NGOs like Haribon Foundation blocked the full implementation of these projects which could have saved us from this water shortage. The lack of due diligence on the part of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) also caught us all taking a dump without water in the tap. MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty made the mistake of arguing with a netizen in social media and made it all worse. A bad time to show sass when everyone is edgy, upset and still wearing last week’s dirty laundry.

A water shortage at this time is a necessary evil at this time. I’m not saying that I’m enjoying carrying buckets of water to the toilet every time I need to use it, but that I understand that this is something that needs to be done because there is no other alternative source. Most of these so-called alternatives come from deep wells in and around the Metro and these source deplete easy. As soon as the dams are finished, our water supply should never run out, no matter how long we experience El Nino.

But for now, we do the rain dance in our dirty laundry, go to work unshowered and pay through the nose for ridiculously overpriced pails and buckets. Things should get better when the rains come.

And last night, the rains did come. Thank God.

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