maynilad’s laguna lake – an environmental time bomb

BREAKING NEWS. Duterte asks FVR to go to China for bilateral talks.
Fingers crossed if this will work. Bilateral deals are dangerous. China prefers one-on-one deals with ASEAN nations, because one-sided deals are easier. China avoids multilateral deals because ASEAN has more clout as a united group. Duterte should consult ASEAN before any bilateral moves and consider a multilateral united front. The positive – the prospect for bilateral talks has gained Duterte China’s respect, in preparation for a fair deal. It has also eased the military stance of China somewhat, and sees Chinese investment in Mindanao and joint oil projects in the Spratlys. The negative – China may want the Philippines to concede its territorial rights, nullifying The Hague, make way for Chinese oil projects, allow Chinese warships to roam Philippine waters, and permit continued militarization. Let’s see what happens. China recently sunk a Vietnamese fishing vessel. Will a bilateral deal insure this will not happen? We are in tight rope walk, the US and China pulling the rope. With US military presence in the Philippines, in a US-China confrontation, the Philippines is the biggest collateral damage. Economic deals with China are nullified by military deals with the US. We are sandwiched by two giants. Damn if we do and damn if we don’t.
Why did MAYNILAD fail to see this?
eastwind journals 186
By Bernie V. Lopez,
yet a little while the light is among you
walk steadfast as you have the light
so that darkness may not overtake you
for he who walks in darkness
cannot see where he goes
while you have the light, believe in the light
that you may become children of the light


john 12:35-36
In 2007, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) reported that Laguna Lake was in danger of dying in five years if no steps were taken to clean it up (Greenpeace). The five years elapsed in 2012, and no substantial steps have been taken to this day.


In April, 2016, a ‘manganese surge’ reached the homes of 1.2 million consumers due to the El Nino drought which lowered lake water level dramatically. Manganism or manganese poisoning, a heavy metal, involves permanent neurological disorder with symptons of tremors, facial muscle spasms, irritability, aggressiveness, and hallucinations.




Water sampling done too late weeks after the surge revealed manganese dissolved in water was within safe limits. But how about future droughts and surges? No tests were done on manganese silt or solid particles. Consumer advocate Pete Ilagan of NASECORE sent a letter to Maynilad to answer critical questions. There was no reply.


From the start, Maynilad failed to consider that Laguna Lake is an environmental time bomb, in sourcing household water from it. Perhaps it was too eager about the fantastic idea of an easy cheap source of voluminous water so close to Metro-Manila. Or perhaps it was so confident that its P1.4 billion high-tech water treatment plant at Putatan, which Noynoy inaugurated so proudly in 2011, could handle any kind of pollution.


Its sophisticated microfiltration failed to filter manganese on a massive scale. A water sampling expert said it could have been a management failure to change clogged filters during the surge. Today, Maynilad gets big profits supplying a staggering 100 million liters of water a day to 1.2 million consumers.


LLDA conferred on Maynilad a Blue Award for its Putatan Water Treatment Plant in May 2014. In April 2016, the plant failed to stop the ‘manganese surge’.

President Aquino undrapes the marker of the 100 million liters of water per day Putatan Water Treatment plant in February 2011, one year before the LLDA prophecied the lake would die by 2012.
The LLDA prophecy of Laguna Lake dying soon is ominous. Massive rehabilitation is impossible. As population increases, both household and industrial pollution seem unstoppable. Without mitigating measures, Maynilad, perhaps should find alternative sources this early to avoid future inevitable mass poisoning, for which it may face class action suits. Manganese poisoning is nothing compared to mercury or lead poisoning.


Laguna Lake Statistics


Laguna Lake is a ticking environmental time bomb because the 220-km. lakeshore population is a staggering 15 million in 2010 (NSO). Household waste accounted for 77% of total pollution load, and industrial waste 11%. Greenpeace said LLDA reported dumpsites of Paete, Binan, Angono, and Taytay were too near the lakeshore area in December 2007. The Angono dumpsite was being used in spite of closure orders by the Mayor, Greenpeace added.


Laguna Lake has only one outlet – Manila Bay via the Pasig River, which is often clogged with water lilies that grow abundantly in the lake. Yet, it is fed by 22 major tributaries in a 45,000 sq. km. catchment area. It is a buffer for flood waters, especially from Marikina River. Not including the lake, the pollution from households and firms in this vast catchment area ending up in the lake is massive.


Within the catchment area are many export processing zones, which have semiconductor firms, a major source of pollutants. A Greenpeace report in 2007 revealed water samples from community handpumps in Guandong, China near electronic and semiconductor facilities showed “elevated levels of toxic zinc and vanadium”, and trihalomethanes, a carcinogenic. Greenpeace filed a similar report on Laguna Lake (see ‘sources’ below). Heavy metals have settled on the lake bed cumulatively through the decades, which is hard to clean up. There is little rehabilitation being done. DENR and LLDA mainly do monitoring.


The lake is only 1 meter above sea level, making gravitational outflow weak. Add the water-lily factor and the lake is relatively stagnant and flood-prone. Water levels rise quickly during rainy season and recedes quickly during droughts. Laguna Lake is oddly the largest but shallowest lake nationwide. Its average depth is a mere 2.8 meters, yet it is 911 to 949 sq. km. in area. Water quickly dries up in such a large area, exposing large areas of the shore. This is perhaps why there was a ‘manganese surge’, which Maynilad attributed to the lowering of water level due to the El Nino.
Maynilad admitted the manganese surge when they issued a warning to consumers to put a cloth filter on their tap to catch manganese silt. Silt can settle in home water tanks, and sip into the underground water table when you water your garden. If there are 100 million liters a day for 1.2 million consumers, this is quite a big impact.


On top of the silt problem is manganese dissolved in water, which goes into food if used to wash rice or vegetables or for coffee or soup. So consumers, be warned. The yellowish tint of cloth filter persisted for a few more weeks. Deadly solid particulates should never enter the household water system.


The DENR needs to conduct an investigation, gather past historical sampling tests, and recommend whether Maynilad should continue to tap Laguna Lake water. A massive LGU campaign against dumpsites and household wastes is also urgent. LLDA should start using the environment fees it exacts from firms for the environment. If we stop sourcing Laguna Lake, we may have a water crisis. If we continue, we may have a poison crisis. Without any action, we may be headed for an environmental tsunami. (Sources – greenpeace.org1 / greenpeace.org2 / / philstar /


(The author is a Filipino senior columnist in the last 20 years, presently with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a former radio-TV broadcaster at Radio Veritas, a former documentary producer-director at ABS-CBN, GMA7, TVS Tokyo, and a former Ateneo University professor.)


Four Meditation Verses


trust in the Lord
when He shuts a door
He opens a window
oh that You would hide me in the underworld
and shelter me until Your wrath has past
set a time for it to pass, then remember me


job 14:13


return to Me
all you who have left Me
in stealth and silence
you are all My children
in the farthest nook where you go
I am there seeking you
in the longest time you are gone
I await your return with eagerness
know that in Me you are full
and without Me you are null




at the center of the milky way is a super-black hole
that controls the billions of stars in the galaxy
every planet, every grain of sand
a teaspoon of black-hole matter weighs like a million suns
yet its awesome power is a mere shadow of the Lord’s
Who made billions of galaxies
yet the black-hole is nothing compared to you
because in you is the Lord
Creator of the universe




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