Maynilad, Manila Water ordered to extend grace period for bills payment until August 30
MANILA, Philippines — Water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad have been directed by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to extend their grace period for residential customers’ unsettled bills at least until the end of the third quarter, or on August 30.
Chief Regulator Patrick Ty said on Thursday that the MWSS Board of Trustees has already decided that water concessionaires must suspend the disconnection of water lines until the said date while resolving numerous complaints about high water bills.
Just a day ago, both companies were ordered to explain their side after the MWSS’ Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO) received at least 400 complaints regarding the billing system — despite measures in place to avoid bill shock amid suspended meter reading operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In light of the current [COVID-19] situation, the [MWSS] Board of Trustees (BOT) has directed Manila Water Company, Inc (MWCI) and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. (MWSI) to grant all residential customers a grace period of at least until the end of the third quarter this year to settle their Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and Modified ECQ (MECQ) water bills,” Ty said in a statement.
“During this period, the Concessionaires are to suspend water service disconnection activities, resolve billing inquiries and complaints, and provide customers ample time to update payments for accumulated water bills,” he added.
According to Ty, the directive was issued based on “humanitarian and public health considerations; and with the intention of providing further economic relief to customers” affected by the quarantine periods, still because of the health crisis.
“The agency maintains that ensuring the availability of water for all is of utmost importance, especially during this time when such resource is most essential for hand washing and hygiene, to curb the COVID-19 pandemic,” he assured.
“Meanwhile, the MWSS Regulatory Office (RO) will continue to proactively operationalize measures to aid customers and protect consumer welfare especially in this time of adversity,” he added.
When the coronavirus transmissions became imminent, the government had suspended classes and work except for essential services while requiring people to stay at home, which meant that some people had no income through the lockdowns.
The work suspension affected those who rely on daily earnings and those whose jobs cannot adjust to a work from home scheme.
But aside from that, the pandemic also affected utility services like electricity and water as the companies’ personnel tasked to read meters were not dispatched to protect them from the health crisis, forcing utility services to rely on estimating a household or a customer’s consumption.
This however brought several problems as people believe their consumption was not clearly reflected by the estimates.
In a separate statement on Wednesday, MWSS-RO said that Manila Water, which handles the east concession zone, and Maynilad, which services the west concession area, were given within the week to explain their side.
But water customers were not the first to report supposed surges in their bills. Last May, Metro Manila’s electric provider Manila Electric Corporation (Meralco) was criticized after consumers posted allegedly absurdly high electric bills on social media.
One source told INQUIRER.net that her house in Quezon City was billed for over P1,000 even if he was staying at his mother’s place for the duration of the lockdown.
Meralco has refuted some of these photos and the stories behind it as altered while vowing to check meters properly once they resume operations.
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