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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, March 15, 2019
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with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia
OPINIONS

Water woes

come

When my wife booked promo fare airline tickets a few months ago so we could spend Holy Week in Metro Manila with her parents, we knew that our family was going to have to deal with traffic, pollution, the sweltering urban heat and congestion but we didn’t expect to be walking into a water crisis.

The tickets were bought in a promo so they was not rebookable, refundable or transferrable so we had to swallow the bitter pill and push through with the trip, come hell or high water. My wife’s home in Mandaluyong has a water tank but with an intermittent supply, we couldn’t be sure that their home’s water system that had been downsized for two could absorb the sudden influx of 4 warm bodies. So in order to avoid the inevitable stress that could sprout from our visit during a full-blown water crisis, we started looking for an AirBNB.

The thing about searching for an AirBNB in a metropolis that is going through a water crisis is that prospective tenants have to add an extra layer of due diligence before booking the place. We had to ask about the water situation in their unit. Questions like schedule, availability and water pressure had to be asked if we didn’t want to pay good money for a place that didn’t have water and the owner had no control over the problem because the problem was caused by gross incompetence on the side of the water concessionaires and the government agencies involved.

We had to ask about the schedule and water pressure and the owner of the property could only give us estimates and tentative schedules because they had no clue what the water situation would be like during the days that we scheduled our booking. After all, according to PAGASA, summer hasn’t even officially started. It’s a good thing we will spending only 4 days in Metro Manila. I hope we survive this ordeal intact.

While people like me worry about the 4 days of summer my family will spend in Metro Manila, the millions of people who live there are currently dealing with a water crisis that given government’s track record, is bound to last until God knows when.It makes you wonder if Filipinos are being punished by God and what could we have done so wrong to deserve his wrath.

People can’t shower, do the laundry, clean dishes, and flush toilets anytime they want or need to but only when there’s water. Those that have water tanks have to wait for the schedule to fill their tanks, not knowing how much water pressure will be available and when the next “delivery” could be. Those without water tanks have to collect water using any means necessary and based on news reports, it currently involves lining up on streets with pails for hours waiting for the water truck. As some of the older netizens have pointed out, it feels like a throwback to the Martial Law era back in the early 80s.

The situation in the capital region makes you wonder if the rotating brownouts of the 90’s is next in line in these throwback series that our government recently seems to be obsessed with.

To make matters worse, it would seem that our government was caught flatfooted by this crisis and aside from being unprepared for it, has no idea how to solve it. As Presidential Spokesperson Panelo said, they will just have to wait for rain. Other government officials are talking about cloud seeding operations. What they forgot to consider is that the dry summer season hasn’t even officially started.

There are also theories that El Niño is not (yet) the problem because the water levels at Angat Dam is not critical so what we have is an infrastructure problem. The water is apparently there but it cannot be delivered to Metro Manila. There are no quick fixes for this problem and even if there are ongoing projects that could rectify this problem, none will come to fruition within the next 3 months of El Niño enhanced summer. The bottom line is this is an epic failure on the part of whoever is in charge of water, both from the private and government sector. They must’ve seen this coming many years ago but nobody acted quickly and decisively enough.

The malicious and creatively defensive fans of the administration must also be coming up with their own theories blaming the “Dilawans” for sabotaging the country. If they are right and this is an elaborate hatchet job to embarrass our great leader at the expense of millions, whoever are responsible should prepare themselves for the legendary wrath of our great leader. Any oligarch who can cause a water crisis just for shits and giggles should prepare to be persecuted at the same intensity as enemies of the state Leila De Lima and Maria Ressa.

On the opposite side of the conspiracy theory spectrum are the naughty ones who would say that the water shortage is a shrewd way of fast tracking a humongous water project to be undertaken by the Chinese. A water crisis at the expense of millions would definitely spout emergency powers and solutions that could mean big money for those who enjoy kickbacks and commissions.

Fortunately for the Filipinos we have a president who would never ever tolerate even just a whiff of corruption. Let us hope that the stench of the great unwashed in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces, especially as it builds up as we go a few more weeks into this crisis, does not overpower the whiff of corruption that could come with some ambitious solutions. We are counting on the awesomeness of our great leader to sniff out the bigger stink as he and his team of the best and brightest this nation has to offer finds a solution to this problem that they never saw coming.

As we watch from a distance and commiserate with our fellow Filipinos, let us also be aware that water crises are real and that while water may flow freely from our taps now, it will could also run out if we don’t change our wasteful ways. We need to consciously conserve water now if we don’t want the same thing to happen to us very soon. This is an urgent concern and lifestyle change that needs to be addressed by everyone in our community. Hopefully we can change our ways to consume water in a sustainable manner so we can avoid what is happening to our countrymen in the capital region right now.*  

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Email:mail@carloleonardia.com

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