Lawmakers ask Duterte to fire MWSS execs
Lawmakers are demanding the ouster of top officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), a regulatory agency, for their failure to prevent the water shortage in large parts of Metro Manila.
They are also pushing Manila Water to refrain from collecting the minimum usage charge, saying it has not provided normal water service for the past two weeks.
“We hope President Duterte appoints a new head of the MWSS who knows the ins and outs of the job,” said Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, a member of the House committee on Metro Manila affairs.
The President was scheduled to meet with MWSS officials Tuesday night.
Dy was among members of the House of Representatives who called for the firing of MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco, a day after he and top officials of Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services Inc. faced a House inquiry to explain the water shortage.
“If MWSS top officials cannot find a solution, then they should resign and just enjoy respite from the strenuous requirements of public service,” Dy said.
Buhay Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr. dared Velasco and Ferdinand dela Cruz, Manila Water president and CEO, to resign for their failure to deliver water.
“Both the government and the private concessionaires have clearly failed us,” Atienza said during the House hearing on Monday.
Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin, who also sought the dismissal of MWSS officials, demanded that Manila Water stop its minimum water charge on consumers because it failed to meet “even the bare minimum standard” of ensuring enough water for all its clients.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said the hearing showed that the water shortage in Metro Manila was caused not by low water supply but by “mere incompetence” of the service providers.
“As early as January, Manila Water already knew that they will be needing (1.7 billion liters), beyond the (1.6 billion liters) allocated to them. Yet they did not do something about it. They waited for the March 6 water service interruption before they acted on it,” Erice said.
Manila Water should be penalized, or at least give a discount to all its customers in their March billing, he said.
Party-list group Bayan Muna said the water shortage could be solved even without the government having to build a water impounding dam near what it said was a fault line.
Reduce systems losses
For starters, Manila Water and Maynilad should drastically reduce their water system loss, said Bayan Muna chair and Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares.
Citing a study by the consumer group Water for the People Network, Colmenares said Manila Water’s “nonrevenue water” loss was pegged at 11 percent, while that of Maynilad was 39 percent, equivalent to 176 million liters per day (MLD) and 1,001 MLD, respectively.
Colmenares said the losses were more than enough to fill Manila Water’s 150 MLD deficit that was supposed to have caused the water shortage.
Manila Water customers may yet get some relief from Manila Water in the form of an “adjustment” on their water bills.
At a separate Senate hearing on Tuesday, Dela Cruz said he had instructed his staff to study the proposal.
Sen. Grace Poe, who led the hearing on the water shortage, said customers must get a refund or possibly an “amnesty.”
Poe also took to task the MWSS for failing to take adequate steps to prevent the water crisis, given that the warnings about a shortage had been raised since last year. “Manila Water has liability here, but I think the MWSS has a bigger liability,” she said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked Dela Cruz if Manila Water was willing to offer a “rebate” to customers.
Dela Cruz said he had instructed his team to explore ways to provide some relief to those affected.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Manila Water should also stop billing customers for its water treatment plant in Cardona, Rizal, whose failure to be operational by December contributed to the water shortage. The plant was supposed to filter water from Laguna Lake.
The concessionaire began collecting fees for the Cardona plant in 2015.
Lacson also said he found the concession agreement with Manila Water to be disadvantageous to the public.
Amid the congressional hearings, Manila Water said on Tuesday that its customers would experience shorter service interruptions daily. These lasted six to 20 hours last week. —With reports from Julie M. Aurelio and Ronnel W. Domingo
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