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Will politics delay or advance Mananga dam project?

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As officials of the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) grapple with politics, implementation of the Mananga dam project and other water development projects aimed at addressing the lack of water and the advancing saltwater intrusion into the aquifer may be at risk of further delay.

The Mananga dam project was targeted for bidding before the end of 2019 and construction was to start in 2021 if undertaken through the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme, said MCWD public affairs head Charmaine R. Kara.

The project has been on the table for over 30 years and this would be the second time that MCWD would attempt to implement the project.

This time, the number of people affected has doubled to more than 1,000 households from about 500 in 2015 while the project cost has ballooned to P10 billion from P4.78 billion in 2015.

Estimated yield, on the other hand, is lower at 80,000 cubic meters per day compared to the 100,000 cubic meters per day as assessed in 1985 and 95,000 cubic meters per day in 1994.

The proposed dam would be 80 meters, lower than the original proposal of 90 meters and higher than the version proposed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at 73 meters.

The MCWD, a government-owned or controlled corporation, is rocked by politics, with newly elected Cebu City Mayor Edgardo C. Labella terminating the services of the current Board of Directors on October 15.

The board, led by chairman Joel Mari S. Yu, has refused to step down, saying Labella could not fire members of the board with unexpired terms.

Yu is an appointee of former Cebu City mayor Tomas R. Osmeña, whom Labella defeated in the 2019 elections. Other Osmeña appointees in the board are Augustus Pe Jr., Ralph Sevilla and Cecilia B. Jugao-Adlawan.

Procopio Fernandez, an appointee of former mayor Michael L. Rama who is currently the vice mayor to Labella, was also terminated.

Labella issued the termination notices after receiving a letter from Local Water Utilities Administration acting administrator Jeci A. Lapus, who said his office interposed no objection to Labella’s plan to remove the board as long as this is “within the bounds of the law consistent with the last sentence of Section 11 of PD 198.”

The last sentence of the said provision states, “Directors may be removed for cause only.”

Labella has cited “the widespread dissatisfaction over the service rendered” by the board as indicated in resolutions passed by the city councils of Cebu and Mandaue as well as by the municipal councils of Consolacion, Liloan and Cordova.

Original proposal

The Mananga River in Talisay City, one of six identified watersheds in Central Cebu, was identified as a major source of water for Metro Cebu in studies conducted by the Kampsax-Kruger Lahmeyer International (KKLI) and by the Cebu Consultants in the early 1980s.

According to a Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) paper prepared in June 1998, the Cebu Consultants recommended in 1985 the implementation of the Mananga river development project in two phases as an alternative to the very costly Lusaran dam project.

The Lusaran dam project and the Inabanga (Bohol) Water Supply Project, which were both identified as long-term solutions, remain on the table as well.

Phase 1 of the Mananga project was to involve the construction of a 7-meter diversion weir in Jaclupan Valley, sedimentation and infiltration facilities, and a wellfield which can produce 33,000 cubic meters per day of water, about three times higher than the natural safe groundwater yield of about 10,000 cubic meters per day, the PIDS paper said.

Phase II was supposed to involve the construction of a 90-meter high dam that could augment water supply by 100,000 cubic meters per day.

The dam would be built upstream of the Phase 1 facilities. The project was supposed to also involve construction of a tunnel connecting the reservoir and a proposed treatment plant at Tisa, above the ground concrete reservoir, and additional transmission and distribution pipe lines.

The paper was prepared by Cristina C. David, Arlene B. Inocencio, Francisco M. Largo and Ed L. Walag for PIDS and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

ADB loan

The Asian Development Bank approved a loan for the first phase of the project in 1990. The funds were coursed through the LWUA, which then lent the money to MCWD.

A 2002 performance audit report by the ADB said it approved funding for the construction of a diversion weir, a settling basin, an infiltration basin, 19 deep wells, two storage reservoirs, a chlorination building, transmission and distribution mains, and equipment for maintenance.

The project aimed to augment MCWD supply by 33,000 cubic meters per day, increase piped water connections, and reduce non-revenue water, or leakage, from 38% in 1990 to 30% in 1993.

Completion of the project, which was programmed for end-1993, was delayed by about four years due to “administrative reasons” and the ADB considered cancelling the project in 1994, since implementation had not started yet.

Phase 1 facilities, except the infiltration basin, were partially commissioned in October 1997. These are now known as the Jaclupan facility and Jaclupan weir.

The actual project cost was $24.4 million, 26% below the appraisal estimate, because the two reservoirs and chlorination building were cancelled.

Only 15 of the 19 proposed wells were constructed because of high yields under natural conditions. These wells produced 23,000 cubic meters of water per day in 2002, but the ADB said output could go up to the targeted 33,000 cubic meters if an infiltration basin is completed.

MCWD constructed the infiltration basin in Jaclupan Valley using its own funds.

The second phase, which would be the construction of a high dam, was not implemented.

The Cebu Integrated Development Master Plan Study by JICA in 1994 assumed that the Mananga dam would be completed by 2000 and was going to yield 95,000 cubic meters per day.

Feasibility studies

A feasibility study was completed by Electrowatt Engineering Services Ltd. in 1991, but the PIDS said no action was taken since Phase 1 had not even started yet.

Fr. Herman van Engelen, director of the University of San Carlos Water Resources Center, wrote in a paper in 2003 that the dam has been “the object of three feasibility studies respectively by CC (Cebu Consultants) with a revision by Electrowatt, by PCEEM and recently by Bechtel International, Inc.”

The Electrowatt study proposed a 79-meter high dam, instead of the original 90 meters. PCEEM is the Philippine-Canada Environmental and Economic Management Project. The Bechtel study was conducted in 2001.

“The different consultants agree on the technical viability. The financing is the last hurdle,” Van Engelen wrote.

“The hurdle is serious. Existing laws and regulations make it impossible that the national government finances a dam for Cebu. It is against the devolution of power. But if Cebu avails of a soft loan, the national government adds charges for handling and securing so that a 2.5% soft loan becomes a 13% commercial hard dollar loan,” he added.

The Van Engelen paper, Water Supply in Cebu Philippines: A Case Study, is here.

Johan proposal

The MCWD tried to implement Phase 2 when Malaysian investment holdings company Johan Holdings Bhd. submitted an unsolicited proposal to build the 90-meter dam in Barangay Maghaway, Talisay City through the build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme in 1994.

Johan spent about two years preparing the feasibility study and the detailed engineering design.

Then it asked the national government to grant a financial guarantee or performance undertaking in behalf of MCWD. This is an assurance that the government will shoulder payments should MCWD be unable to pay.

The government refused to provide financial guarantee and the project fizzled out.

In June 2015, a study commissioned by JICA and the Metro Cebu Development and Coordination Board suggested that the Mananga dam project be undertaken through PPP.

The 2015 Roadmap Study for Sustainable Urban Development in Metro Cebu listed the Mananga II Dam Bulk Water Supply Project among 10 flagship projects that were to be undertaken from 2015 to 2020.

At the time, the cost of the dam project was estimated at P4.78 billion and the project was targeted for commissioning by 2023, considering the 3-year construction period aside from the engineering works and detailed design engineering study.

The project was seen to affect 272 houses and buildings in Barangays Buot Taup and Pamutan in Cebu City and Camp 4 in Talisay City.

The study noted that “the project has been repeatedly studied over 30 years. Difficulties in project planning and implementation arrangement have been experienced.”

By end-September 2019, MCWD said it had a daily water supply of 233,000 cubic meters from the Buhisan Dam and Jaclupan facility. But only 176,000 cubic meters is delivered due to leaks.

Demand is estimated at 538,000 cubic meters, with the shortfall sourced from private wells.

MCWD’s service area includes the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay as well as the towns of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela, Cordova, (Ventures Cebu)

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