After ‘electric shock’ comes ‘water torture’ for consumers
MANILA, Philippines — After the “electric shock” of the past month comes the “water torture.”
Leaders of Bayan Muna party list on Tuesday appealed to the two Metro Manila water concessionaires to waive at least one month’s billing of consumers who would soon be receiving their first actual water bill in four months of quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We suffered a shock from electricity, now we’re experiencing torture from water,” the group’s chairperson Neri Colmenares said, as he urged Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. to condone one month’s worth of water consumption.
“This will be their assistance to our fellow Filipinos who can barely afford food during the lockdown and now may be buried in debt due to their electricity and water bills,” the former congressman said in a statement.
Customers of Manila Water and Maynilad are poised this month to receive their bill reflecting their actual consumption from March to June, as there was no meter reading during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.
In March, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) authorized the two concessionaires to suspend meter reading and instead bill their customers based on their average monthly consumption in the previous three months, similar to the scheme used by Manila Electric Co. for electric bills.
But many consumers did not receive any water bill at all during the quarantine period.
On May 29, the MWSS, in a move to prevent “bill shock,” encouraged customers to contact their service provider and settle their accounts in “staggered amounts” prior to the disconnection period.
The regulator also ordered Manila Water and Maynilad to ensure that their customers’ actual water consumption were duly reflected in their billing statement by dividing the accumulated consumption by the number of months covered by the quarantine period, verifying consumption patterns, checking for irregularities and automatically withholding statements with “observed significant deviation” from those patterns.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said he had already received many complaints about rocketing water bills.
“Add this to the hike in petroleum prices and lack of jobs, and you would see the magnitude of the problems facing Filipinos,” the Makabayan lawmaker said.
“I strongly urge the leadership of the House that like the case of power rate spikes, Congress should also investigate these spikes in the water rates,” Zarate said.
Some Metro Manila residents took to social media to complain about drastic increases in their water bill.
A Maynilad customer from Caloocan City posted a photo of his bill on Twitter showing an accumulated charge of P3,711.74. “Our bill per month is 400-500 only. Why did it double?” he complained.
A resident of Muntinlupa City showed a Maynilad bill for P1,390, saying her normal bill was P130 per month. “Our water consumption didn’t change even during lockdown. They’re imitating Meralco,” she said also on Twitter.
Another Maynilad customer fumed about getting a bill for P18,000. “What, did we have a swimming pool during ECQ? Yes, it was hot … but usually our bill was only in the P3,000-P4,000 range, so why did it amount to P6,000 per month?”
Colmenares said it was not the right time for Maynilad and Manila Water to think about profits during a pandemic.
“The truth is these water companies profited so much in the past year despite terrible service,” he said.
—With a report from Inquirer Research
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