THE Villar family is not interested in taking over the distribution of water in Metro Manila and surrounding areas, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said yesterday amid the threat of President Duterte for government to take over the water system and offer it to interested parties.
“Is my family (interested)? No,” Villar said in a briefing in Malacañang.
He later clarified that he is not currently involved in the private companies that is operated by his family’s companies and is not privy to any of their decisions.
The President, in the past had acknowledged the Villar family and its’ Prime Water Infrastructure Corporation that currently provides water and septage management solutions in 36 provinces.
Duterte had ordered a review and crafting of new water contracts with Maynilad and Manila Water after government lawyers found their existing concession agreements onerous and disadvantageous to the government and to the people.
The President had also questioned the extension of the 25-year agreements even before they expiry in 2022. The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) had already cancelled the extension of the agreements from 2022 to 2037.
Duterte had earlier told Maynilad and Manila Water to accept the new contracts without guarantee that they will not be charged legally, or they could refuse and the government will take over and haul them to court.
Meanwhile, MWSS Administrator Emanuel Salamat, during the “Virtual Presser” forum in Malacañang, said the government is eyeing the construction of the controversial Kaliwa Dam in the latter part of this year.
Salamat said the government is now waiting for the completion and approval of the design for the dam. The design phase, he said, is expected to take about six months.
“We are now in the design phase. It will take about six months and until such time that we agreed on the design and the approval of the design, we will proceed with the construction,” he said.
The construction period is expected to take about three years, to be followed by the construction of the pipelines which will take another two years or less.
Salamat said the important thing for the MWSS is to address all issues surrounding the dam project, such as compliance with the environmental requirements and coming up with a settlement with the indigenous people in the area who will be affected by the project.
The MWSS and the indigenous people organizations (IPOs) are now in the process of drafting a memorandum of understanding as part of the agency’s comprehensive integrated development plan for those who will be displaced by the construction of the dam.
Salamat said more than 400 individuals from 55 barangays will be affected by the construction of the dam and government will ensure that the IPs will be relocated.
Salamat also acknowledged that the longer the delay on the construction of the China-funded Kaliwa Dam starts, the bigger the possibility that it will not be finished within the term of President Duterte.
“That is possible. But what is important, the President has started it already,” he said.
The President had initially given the go signal to proceed with the undertaking, which is seen to help address the water supply needs of Metro Manila.
The Kaliwa dam project was first proposed in 2012. It was finally approved as a public-private partnership project in 2015.
The Duterte government in 2016 said it will just undertake the project using a loan from China.