Dexter Yap (Daily Zamboanga Times)
The House Committee on Public Works and Highways chaired by Cong. Celso Lobregat has recently approved House Resolution No. 10 last May 24, 2017.
HR No. 10 sponsored by Cong. Lobregat urges the National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to support the proposed Zamboanga City Impounding Dam Project and to include it in the priority project listing of the national government.
In his opening remarks during the hearing, Cong. Lobregat said that he filed HR No. 10 during the opening of the 17th Congress last June 30, 2016. This was after the Kick Off Meeting and Official Launching of the Pre-FS for ZCWD Impounding Dam held last June 13, 2016. Little did he know that he will become the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Works and Highways wherein HR No. 10 was referred, Cong. Lobregat said.
Cong. Lobregat was manifested as Chairman of the Committee on Public Works on September 27, 2016. Perhaps it is really meant to be that this proposed impounding dam project will now be realized, he added.
Cong. Lobregat said that the proposed project will provide such benefits as year-round irrigation and hydroelectric power to the City of Zamboanga, aside from addressing the water shortage and mitigating the effects of climate change in the City of Zamboanga.
A World Bank Study commissioned in 1996 thru the Japanese Government identified the City of Zamboanga as a water-restrained city. The study also revealed that the water demand until 2025 is highest in the City of Zamboanga due to high increase in population, service coverage ratio of the public water system and high growth of industrial water demand.
The City of Zamboanga suffered heavily from the effects of the 2015 and 2016 El Niño with pronounced and acute water shortages and water rationing. There was also an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis and other water borne diseases and millions of pesos in damages in the agriculture sector, Cong. Lobregat said.
The ZCWD was a recipient of the technical assistance from the USAID Be Secure Project Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability for the conduct of a Pre-FS for the Zamboanga City Impounding Dam Project.
USAID concluded in its pre-feasibility study that the best site for the water impounding dam project is Tumaga which is located near Pulong Bato.
Representative from the USAID, Mr. Demosthenes Rodoble was also present and very supportive of the project. He stated that Zamboanga City’s current source of raw water is the Tumaga River which is managed by the ZCWD. The Tumaga River has abundant water but scarcity during dry season. The water system has no storage capacity making it very vulnerable to changing rainfall patterns. The study further shows Zamboanga City is at risk of drought exacerbated by El Niño events.
Chairman Jose Vicente Atilano, representative from the ZCWD was present during the hearing and expressed support for HR No. 10 filed by Cong. Lobregat. They are cognizant that increasing water security is a development imperative for inclusive growth in the City of Zamboanga and to achieve this, a legacy project designed to squarely deal with climate-change induced prolonged drought and water shortage, is an impounding dam.
The representative of the City Government of Zamboanga, Ms. Ofelia Despalo (Assistant Zamboanga City Planning Development Officer) was also in attendance during the hearing. She expressed support for HR. No. 10. Ms. Despalo said that they recognized the fact that Zamboanga City, as compared to other cities, is at a high risk of suffering the effects of climate change hence they fully support the proposed water impounding dam project as a way of helping water security and resiliency in the city.
Both the ZCWD and the City Government of Zamboanga have committed the amount of P15 Million and P10 Million respectively to help fund the full-blown feasibility study for the proposed project.
The representative from NEDA also expressed support for HR No. 10 filed by Cong. Lobgregat. As an initial action the agency has written the National Irrigation Agency (NIA), recognizing that one of the components of the dam project is irrigation. NEDA has also coordinated with its Region 9 office which said that the project is already included in its Regional Development Plan (RDP). The representative from NEDA added that the Regional Development Investment Program is presently still being formulated, and that the project has to be endorsed to NEDA by the implementing agency for inclusion in the list of priority projects of the national government.
On their part, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center representative gave their support to HR No. 10 and mentioned the possible options for implementing the project. First of which is that ZCWD may enter into a cooperation agreement with the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC)-Renewable Corporation or the relevant local government which has express authority to construct a mini hydro-electric project. Another option is for the LGU to undertake the construction of a mini hydro-electric project with water supply system on its own. Or it may enter into a contract with any person for the purpose of performing any of its functions through PPP, joint venture or any other modes as may be authorized by law.
The DENR representative also expressed support provided that the needed requirements are fully accomplished such as the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau’s resolution and corresponding Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).
Based on the discussions made during the said meeting, Cong. Lobregat asked who will be the lead implementing agency for the project. Further, Cong Lobregat said that he was informed that there are private investors interested in doing the FS and even the PPP. However, Cong. Lobregat stressed that at this point in time it would be premature to involve a private proponent pending determination of which agency will implement the project. Even if it will be under PPP, it will still be too early since the specifics of the project are still to be determined.
This view of Cong. Lobregat has been backed by the representative from the ZCWD noting that they don’t want to preempt any position of the national government.
Cong. Lobregat recognized the fact that since there are already private investors who are interested in the project as early as this time, it means that the project is really viable. Cong. Lobregat advised the private investors to monitor the status of the project should the project be decided to be under PPP, then the private investors will be very welcome to participate.
Other agencies present during the hearing were DPWH, DOE, LWUA and NEA. All of them expressed support for HR No. 10.
The members of the Committee approved and adopted H.R No. 10 and scheduled another hearing on May 31, 2017. The Panel also resolved to form a Technical Working Group for the purpose of determining the proper implementing agency to lead the project.