Compensating harm

March 22, 2019

Injury must always be compensatory, one way or the other.

Even more so if the injury was inflicted by a person, entity, or a party vested with the privilege to render public services like utilities.

The privilege is granted by the people through their representatives in  Congress who approve franchises for utilities in a  designated area.

And like all other privileges, franchises can be revoked or cancelled in extreme cases or the franchise holders can be penalized or fined for violation of the franchise terms or concession agreements.

Sen. Grace Poe is recommending a refund for consumers and pushing for compensation for local government units that experienced Metro Manila's worst water crisis in recent years.

In an interview after she led a Senate inquiry on water supply shortage in the capital and parts of Rizal province on Tuesday, Poe supported calls by her fellow senators to demand an immediate refund and impose penalties against Manila Water for failure to deliver water 24/7.

"Imposibleng walang kompensasyon sa konsumer dahil tayo'y nangungunsumi sa ngayon. Pati ang local government ang laki na ng gastos nila... para mabigyan sila ng suporta habang walang tubig," Poe, chair of the public services committee, said.

Poe added the private concessionaire may even consider a "two-month amnesty" on water bills as large swaths of the capital suffered from unannounced water shortage that earned the anger and frustration of residents.

In Mandaluyong City, one of the hardest hit areas, people are lining up for water rations, with some chasing and even blocking firetrucks for them just to get water, said Carlito Cernal, barangay chairman of Addition Hills, the city's largest barangay that still has no water up to now.

Mandaluyong Mayor Carmelita "Menchie" Abalos said water supply in the city is not yet normal as three out of 27 barangays are still without water.

At the hearing, Ferdinand dela Cruz, Manila Water's chief executive officer, said he has instructed the firm to explore ways to provide "some relief in water bills of affected constituents during the period of the service interruption."

"We will discuss it with the regulators and we will update this committee on this initiative," the executive said.

Their customers, however, could still wait longer for water supply to normalize until June, Manila Water admitted to senators.

"Our nine percent supply deficit will go down to 4.5 percent in April and 1.5 percent in May... before getting totally eliminated in June," Dela Cruz added.