Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Government’s Last Dam Standing

Government’s Last Dam Standing
By Erick San Juan

My attention was caught by this news item that the MWSS will draw less water from the Angat Dam starting this month due to the El Nino phenomenon. The Angat Dam which was built and made operational between 1967-68 and being the source of Bulacan’s water supply, this dam also supplies 97% of Metro Manila and some parts of Luzon with a total of 9.84 million people.
When I reviewed some news on this, I found out that Angat Dam is for sale! And that is why just recently, some local officials of Bulacan and Napocor’s team of experts also inspected Angat dam for the alleged cracks which they found out to be false, with the assurance that it will last for another 60 years. Are we being taken for a ride here again?
“The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) says the sale of Angat Dam does not mean absolute control of the water by any private corporation since government is mandated by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to protect water for household consumption and irrigation.”, (Manila Bulletin). Have you heard this familiar line before? Every time that a government-owned facility is being privatized, we hear this same line that the “consumers will be protected” and most especially rates will be lowered and improved services will be enjoyed. Really? But, that is not the case as we, the Metro Manila residents are experiencing high cost of water and electricity since they were privatized. Now again, the only source of potable water will be given to another private sector who is also a concessionaire of the water sector. That is monopoly! Then we will hear the CHR defending its sale justifying it will not lead to a monopolized water sector? My foot, I can smell something fishy here.

As mandated by EPIRA, the government’s generation plants should be privatized up to 70% to give way to the implementation of open access and retail competition in the energy sector. Actually, Angat dam is the last remaining dam owned and operated by the National Power Corporation which is also a hydroelectric power plant. The Angat Reservoir is Napocor’s only facility that supplies water for the NCR which is very strategic to be privatized. That is why opposition to the sale of this asset grew due to the risk of having a private corporation run an important facility, the life blood of the country’s strategic region. Are we going to allow this?
Have we forgotten the people who died and the devastation of properties brought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng aggravated by manmade disaster due to the mismanagement of our privatized dams? We must be vigilant and support the opposition to the impending privatization of Angat Dam. If the CHR cannot defend the people’s rights to a secured source of potable water and sadly a government agency that cannot protect its citizens. Let us not be contented and allow the sale of this government’s last dam standing for the benefit of the few corrupt corporats! I hope that our presidentiables will advocate accountability in governance. May karma be with the corruptors!

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