Manila gets $123-M ADB loan for water supply modernization

Manila got a $123.3 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to help modernize Manila’s water supply, reducing the risk of shortages as demand for water rises in tandem with the city’s booming population.

“The Angat transmission system provides more than 95% of Manila’s water but its existing tunnels are up to 75 years old and in poor condition, leaving the metropolitan area highly vulnerable to serious supply disruptions,” said Paul van Klaveren, Senior Urban Development Specialist with ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. “This assistance will allow the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to build a fourth tunnel, clearing the way for it to upgrade and modernize its other existing tunnels and aqueducts to maximize and strengthen supplies.”

The MWSS is a government-owned corporation, supplying raw water for Manila, with two private companies holding distribution concessions. Demand for water has grown strongly to around 40 cubic meters a second, with the concessionaires largely able to meet demand in the past by sharply reducing nonrevenue water, or water that is produced but does not reach the customer due to system faults. However, with demand still increasing, the MWSS is planning to develop a major new water source, which is expected to be operational after 2021.

ADB stressed an urgent need to rehabilitate the Angat system to avert a potential supply breakdown, and the MWSS has been carrying out improvements including the construction of a new aqueduct. The benefits of this aqueduct can only be fully achieved if a new tunnel is built to provide it with raw water.

The planned tunnel will be over 6-kilometers long with an internal span of about 4 meters, an intake structure at the Ipo reservoir, and a new transition basin at Bigte, along with connecting infrastructure. A key element will be structural measures to limit the impact of earthquakes and other hazards, as well as environmental degradation. Capacity building support will also be provided to improve the skills of MWSS staff so that they can meet their management responsibilities for securing raw water supplies for the concessionaires.

Ensuring security of water supplies is crucial for both the economic well-being of Manila and the health of its citizens. Since 1974, ADB has extended finance for 10 Metro Manila water projects, including three for the Angat supply system. Privatization of distribution has had significant benefits with the serviced population doubling since 1997, and 90% of the population now having round-the-clock water access. The amount of non-revenue water has been cut from more than 60% in 2002 to between 10% and 40% in 2015.


Philippine unemployment rate drops to 5.8%

More Filipinos have jobs now as the employment rate rose by 2 percent to 39. Million in January 2016 that reflected the sustained dynamism of the Philippine economy.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent in January 2016 from 6.6 percent in January 2015, with broad-based improvements coming from most regions, across all age groups, almost all educational levels, and for both men and women.

“Our labor market was boosted by better employment opportunities in the industry and services sectors. This performance also brought the unemployment rate to its second lowest in the decade, with the lowest recorded in October last year,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra.

The industry and services sectors generated 508,000 and 1.18 million additional jobs, respectively, in January 2016.

“With employment growing faster at 2.0 percent relative to the labor force growth of 1.1 percent, the number of unemployed went down by 279,000 to 2.4 million during the period,” said Esguerra.

“With the favorable labor market situation in January 2016 and the continued slowdown in the national unemployment rate, the Philippine Development Plan target of 6.5-6.7 percent for unemployment rate in 2016 is likely to be achieved,” added Esguerra.

On the other hand, the slight decline in labor force participation rate was partly due to the decision among the youth to opt out of the labor force to attend school and become full-time students.

However, underemployment, which refers to those who are working but wanted more work, worsened to 19.7 percent from 17.9 percent year-on-year. There were approximately 7.7 million underemployed persons, most of whom were wage and salary workers in private establishments.

“Despite the increase in underemployment, positive results in indicators of quality of work, such as the mean hours of work, class of workers and the full-time employment, signal that efforts to foster more remunerative employment are gaining traction,” Esguerra said.

Meanwhile, the number of remunerative and stable wage and salary workers increased by 2.7 million and their share in total employment greatly surged to 63.3 percent in January 2016 from 57.5 percent in January 2015.

To further improve the employment situation in the country, Esguerra said the government should focus efforts on equipping students with industry-relevant competencies and skills, and increasing opportunities for work experience.

He also stressed the need to urgently address the continued lag in employment in the agriculture sector, which recorded a net employment loss of 935,000. This is consistent with the weak agricultural output given the El Niño phenomenon, which peaked in December 2015.

“Agriculture accounts for over a quarter of total employment. This highlights the need to further improve the resiliency of farmers to mitigate effects of unfavorable weather conditions such as the El Niño which may persist until May 2016. Also, enhancing skills and improving capacities of affected farm workers is important for them to have a smoother transition to more stable work,” he said.