Advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) today said that the water sector, instead of private power companies, should take the lead in managing the facilities of the Angat Dam. The group issued the statement during a roundtable discussion that it organized regarding the planned privatization of the Angat Dam, whose bidding is scheduled next month.
Also speaking at the said forum entitled “Angat Dam privatization: Defending water for the people” held at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Quezon City was the Commission on Human Rights’ (CHR) Karen S. Dumpit. Dumpit, who serves as Director of the government rights body's Government Linkages Office (GOVLINK), talked about the implications of the Angat Dam privatization on the human right to water.
Also in attendance during the roundtable were representatives from Manila Water, affected farmers from Bulacan and consumers in Metro Manila, as well as water advocates from the academe, environmental groups, and non-government organizations (NGOs).
“The question that we should ask is what will be the value-added of Angat dam’s privatization? Will it make water more accessible? Will the benefits redound to the communities?” Director Dumpit asked during her presentation.
In an earlier advisory on Angat Dam privatization, CHR commissioners led by Chairperson Leila de Lima maintained that the “right to water is more fundamental and primary over the need for power” and advised government to “always consider paramount the most basic resources necessary and indispensable for human survival, which include water”.
The privatization of the Angat Dam forms part of the implementation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001. At present, the dam is being managed by the National Power Corp. (Napocor). The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), which under Epira was formed to dispose the assets of Napocor, has scheduled the bidding of Angat’s hydropower facilities on April 28. The group said that the PSALM must stop the bidding.
Water supply for irrigation and domestic use has been declining in recent months due to the El Niño phenomenon and has been particularly harsh on the vulnerable sectors, a situation which small farmers and poor consumers fear will worsen if the privatization of Angat Dam pushes through.
The WPN said that whoever controls the hydropower facilities of the Angat Dam also effectively controls the dam’s water allocation. Earlier, the group raised concern that the access to water for basic domestic use of some 14 million people in Metro Manila and parts of Cavite and Rizal, as well as the use of Angat Dam for the irrigation needs of around 28,000 farmers in Bulacan and Pampanga may be undermined by the planned privatization. (end)
The Water for the People Network (WPN) is a nationwide multi-sectoral alliance of various groups campaigning for people’s control over their water resources. IBON is part of the network secretariat.