Water allocation has always been a touchy subject when supply is insufficient to meet competing demands.  Events such as low starting water level of the Angat dam (10 meters short of the ideal 212 m elevation), high water demand due to the pandemic, lesser rainfall expected until the rainy season tightened collaboration by the members of the Angat Technical Water Group (NWRB, MWSS, Manila Water Maynilad, NPC, NIA, Angat Hydro) The MWSS and the NIA worked hard to protect the rights of their respective customers: for the MWSS the 19 million people whose needs go beyond drinking water but also for hygiene and sanitation; and for NIA the 116 farmer irrigator associations in Bulacan who rely on the Angat-Maasim River Irrigation System (AMRIS) to sustain the growth of crops planted in November 2021.

The MWSS has stated unequivocally that reducing the allocation from 48 to 44 CMS will result in water rotation interruptions, detrimental to combating COVID 19. On the other hand, NIA argued that failing to comply with the irrigation diversion requirement would jeopardize the country’s food security and will result to net farm income loss in billions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the systems wiring between domestic and irrigation requirements, which has thrown off by destructive disturbances. The country’s recovery from the pandemic will necessitate consistent delivery of water for health and hygiene, as well as the prevention of potential crop failures and the reduction of unmanaged competition for water.  Instead of locking horns, MWSS and NIA talked about how they could meet their different needs. At an open meeting on January 11, 2022, a deal that worked for both sides was reached. To ensure uninterrupted supply to Metro Manila customers, MWSS agreed to support P65.705 million worth of NIA’s projects through funding from the Manila Water and Maynilad-led Common Facilities Project (CPF).  NIA in turn agreed to a lesser water allocation instead of the irrigation diversion requirement for AMRIS.

Description Total Amount Concessionaire (Php) Payment Arrangement
Shallow tube well pump (500 units) 50,000,000 25,000,000 Procured by the Concessionaires
Fuel Subsidy 15,000,000 7,500,000 Paid directly to Bulacan Farmers Association
Information dissemination (meals and materials for 1,175 pax) 705,000 352,500
Totals 65,705,000 32,852,500  

The provision of SWTP is one of the practical alternatives to the use of surface water because farmers can re-use water drawn from drainage or from creeks to irrigate the fields. Additionally, cloud seeding operations in February or March 2022 which the CPF will also fund is hoped to bring rains not only in Angat-Ipo dam but also the farmlands in Bulacan.  Just over a week after the agreement was reached, all 500 STWPs were procured and prepared for turn-over. On 28 January 2022, at the NIA Region 3 Farmers’ Training Center in San Rafael, Bulacan, a handover ceremony was held.

NIA Administrator Ricardo Visaya accepted from MWSS Administrator Leonor Cleofas the turn-over certificates of the 500 STWPs. Present as witness were Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando; NWRB Executive Director Sevillo David; Maynilad COO Randy Estrellado, MWC Director for Operations Arnold Mortera and former MWSS Chairman Reynaldo Velasco