AUGUST 16, 2009
(PHILIPPINE STAR) HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - There are currently three guesses regarding what move Vice President Noli de Castro might make in connection with the coming 2010 presidential elections.

First, that he might actually join the Lakas-CMD and accept the party nomination as standard-bearer. Second, that he might opt to run for President as an independent. Third, that he might actually opt to run for re-election as an independent or as running mate of someone running under one of the political parties.

Plausible views, we agree. But they may all prove wrong at the end of the day.

The current prognosis is that the Vice President may actually be contemplating the possibility of not running in the 2010 elections. Not for President. Not for vice president. Not for any public office at all.

And the Vice President may have actually be dropping the hints that he has no intention of taking part in the 2010 race but nobody is paying attention.

First hint: the Vice President reportedly refused to hold a party to celebrate his most recent birthday. Well, in the first place, it appears he never does hold bashes of this sort, but he specifically did not want a party this year because it could turn into one big rah-rah for a presidential bid. Friends and colleagues, however, still managed to surprise him with a small party which was extremely low profile and limited to family, friends, colleagues in media and only a handful of peers in the political arena.

Second hint: the Vice President has reportedly refused to oblige overtures and invitations from potential campaign funders and fund-raisers despite “warnings” that other camps may beat him to scarce campaign resources.

Third hint: De Castro reportedly appears indifferent to “warnings” that several blocks in the Lakas-CMD camp may be “losing patience” with him and may already be urging their party mates to “make do” with their colleagues who are more interested in vying for the presidency. This is despite the analysis by Lakas-CMD political maestro Gabby Claudio that the 2010 race “would be limited to just five strong contenders”.

It appears the guessing game has now shifted to why De Castro has no interest in the race. The emerging dominant view is that the Vice President probably has no appetite for party politics where his independence will have to “come to some compromise”.

His 17 percent preference rating registered in the last Pulse Asia survey and which sustained his leadership in the pack is expected to “kick up” if he makes a formal announcement that he is “definitely running” for president.

Our fearless forecast is that such announcement may not be forthcoming.

The man appears “not ready” to give up his independence.

The Vice President may be about to cause disappointment. If our forecast proves true, such disappointment would definitely be a major one.

Alternative water source

Amidst all the talk supporting and condemning the Laiban Dam water project being proposed by San Miguel Bulk Water Company as a joint venture undertaking with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is the possibility being raised of a viable alternative to Laiban.

This involves the Seven Rivers project in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range which according to Roy Zosa of the Sierra Madre Water Corp. (SMWC) is a long-term water source for Metro Manila.

He says the SMWC alternative could supply up to 2,000 million liters per day compared to Laiban’s 1,900 MLD.

According to MWSS officials, the reason why Zosa may be trying to drum up interest on the Seven Rivers project is because he has acquired the water rights to it, at least for a year until the National Water Resources Board revokes such privilege for failure by SMWC to use it. Whoever develops the Seven Rivers will have to pay the holder of the water rights to it a significant amount or will have to enter into a joint venture arrangement with Zosa, they emphasized.

Zosa, they reminded, is the same person behind the Sierra Madre Water consortium that submitted a bid for the 300 mld interim water supply project of the MWSS in Laguna de Bay sometime in 2006. This project was supposed to supply water to the South up to Cavite and is covered by the Maynilad concession area.

A top MWSS official said Zosa’s group submitted the technical documents but when it came to the submission of the financial documents, they failed to show up. If Zosa cannot raise the P5.2 billion amount needed for the 300 mld MWSS bulk water supply project, why is he showing up now and presenting the Seven Rivers project as if he has the financial capability to undertake a much bigger project, MWSS officials pointed out.

With Metro Manila facing a severe water crisis beginning 2015 when water demand outpaces supply by as much as 1,600 mld, Zosa wants government to junk Laiban and San Miguel Corp’s proposal and to instead adopt his project.

A previous study made for the MWSS has shown that among the alternatives to the Angat Dam, which is currently the only water source for Metro Manila, Laiban is on top, Laguna Bay is second, and Seven Rivers fifth.

What made Laiban a more attractive alternative, MWSS officials add, is the fact that San Miguel Corp. proposes to develop the Kaliwa River but to its right, there is the Kanan River which can be tapped as another source by 2022. Another dam will be required for the Kanan River but a tunnel can be built connecting it to Kaliwa. The Kanan River may be the subject of another proposal in the near future, whether by San Miguel or by another group, according to MWSS.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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