The Director of the Philippines National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council, Edgardo Ollet, acknowledged last week that Angat Dam, which supplies the country’s capital city with 97 percent of its drinking water, has structural damage.
Speaking at a provincial forum on disaster-risk reduction (DRR) and climate-change adaptation on June 22 in Malolos, Ollet was the first government official to publically admit to the cracks, which have been known since the 1990s, when El Nino weather patterns caused the dam’s water level to drop below critical levels. This made the cracks visible.
He insisted that the dam is still stable and “not leaking water.”
The Philippines’ Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the government agency that oversees the water system for the capital and surrounding areas, announced earlier this month that it is preparing to hold a competitive tender for the $130 million USD contract to rehabilitate Angat Dam.
MWSS said the dam, completed over 40 years ago in 1968, needs to be strengthened to allow it to cope with a powerful earthquake that could be triggered by the movement of a major geological fault line, the West Valley Fault, near the dam and dikes.
After concluding that the fault was active, government seismologists recommended as far back as 2004 that Angat be strengthened, but the MWSS secured funding for the project only this year after getting confirmation from international consultants.
These concerns were also raised at the forum, where Ollet said Angat is not directly over the fault line, and that in fact it had already withstood a big earthquake in 1990 that wreaked havoc on Northern Luzon, but not the dam.
However, MWSS General Manager Gerardo Esquivel revealed in a television broadcast that the resulting flooding could cost 30,000 lives and more than $4.7 billion USD in economic losses. About 27 towns and cities in Bulacan and Pampanga provinces north of Manila, and three cities in Metro Manila, would be affected.
About 80 percent of the rehabilitation project’s costs will likely go to infrastructure, while the rest will be spent to upgrade the dam’s instrumentation systems.
Unlike other local water supply projects, the Angat Dam rehabilitation will be funded from the Philippine government budget and not through a foreign government loan. This could open up the bidding process to more local and foreign engineering companies.
Meanwhile, Metro-Manila’s east zone water concessionaire Manila Water Co., which gets its raw water from Angat Dam, has been giving the Philippine Rating Services Corp. highest corporate rating for “its very strong capacity to meet financial obligations relative to other Philippine corporations.”
PhilRatings said Manila Water “has been very proactive in dealing with issues relating to the water industry, such as the development of new water sources,” according to Philippine news outlet Business World Online.
It also pointed to the company’s expansion efforts, sustained profit performance, liquidity position, financial flexibility and capitalization.