Sanctions, revamp eyed vs Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System

THE Senate Committee on Public Services is set to release its preliminary report on the water shortage and is looking at pressing sanctions against and revamp of the Metropolitan Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

Poe said what surfaced at the five-hour long hearing on the water problem was sufficient for her committee to recommend revamp at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and press water concessionaire Manila Water to compensate consumers caught by surprise by massive water interruptions.

“Itinulak natin na doon sa mga oras na walang tubig, ‘wag nang mangolekta ng babayaran namin, o magbigay ng danyos at kung mayroong rebate sa ating mga customers doon sa perwisyo na nagawa nila. Malaki rin ang gastos, marami sa ating mga kababayan ang hindi nakapasok sa trabaho dahil nag-iigib ng tubig,” Poe explained.

For Poe, it was evident that the water industry regulator lacked foresight for dismissing the concessionaires’ earlier warnings that water shortage was in the offing as early as a few years back.

“Unang-una, alam naman ng MWSS na magkukulang ang tubig, last year pa. Pero imbes na sila ay gumawa ng hakbang o pinilit ang Manila Water na gumawa ng solusyon agad-agad, ang una nilang ginawa ay i-deny nila na mayroong water shortage,” said Poe, referring to assertions by MWSS administrator Reynaldo Velasco that supply in Angat Dam was still sufficient at the time water concessionaires flagged warnings.

“May tubig nga do’n [Angat], pero kulang naman sa pagdadaluyan o mga aqueducts, kaya sa demand na tumaas ay talagang kulang pa rin ang tubig na nirarasyon,” Poe added.

At the same time, Poe said it was important that MWSS chief regulator lawyer Patrick Ty made a sudden turnaround after being lectured by senators as to why the regulator could not impose penalties against Manila Water.

Still, Ty said it would take until June for the MWSS regulatory office to come up with a decision and a definite computation as regards fines against the water concessionaire.

The panel’s report would also touch on who should compose the MWSS as the industry requires expertise of civil engineers, finance and recognized labor leaders as stated in the MWSS Charter. Currently, the MWSS board is composed of two retired military and police officials, a chemical engineer and six lawyers.

“Parang nagpalusot ba... ‘Yan ay teknikal, ang kailangan natin diyan ay inhinyero. Civil engineers ang nakalagay sa regulasyon nila. Siguro, sa ating Pangulo, ‘pag siya ay nag-isip kung anong maaaring gawin, isa ito sa puwede niyang pagtuunan ng pansin at palitan ng mga magagaling na engineers para hindi mangyari ito ulit,” Poe said.

Likewise, Poe’s committee will scrutinize the loan agreement with China for the construction of the Kaliwa Dam in Quezon province, amid charges that a provision of the deal could effectively allow Beijing to take full control of Manila’s patrimonial resources in case of a default.

Meanwhile, Senator Sonny Angara urged the government to implement the 30-year old law mandating the establishment of rainwater harvesting system in all barangays nationwide.