Consumers may find some consolation amid the water supply shortage as the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is considering a refund for customers of the east zone concessionaire.
Michael Varcas
Manila Water apologizes for disruption; MWSS studying refund
Louise Maureen Simeon, Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - March 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Concessionaire Manila Water apologized yesterday to its customers for the unexpected water service interruptions that affected many households in Metro Manila and Rizal province.

Consumers may find some consolation amid the water supply shortage as the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is considering a refund for customers of the east zone concessionaire.

“I am ready to resign. I am holding myself accountable for the unexpected drop in service levels to your constituents whom we have consistently served over the past 21 years with 24/7 water availability and sufficient pressure,” Ferdinand de la Cruz, chief executive officer of Manila Water, told lawmakers yesterday during a congressional hearing on the water crisis.

De la Cruz said the water shortage in Metro Manila is not artificial or instigated by some sectors supposedly to pressure the administration to forge a loan with the Chinese government to tap the Kaliwa Dam.

“There’s no conspiracy. Our water supply deficit is real,” he said.

Lawmakers ordered the MWSS to look at mechanisms that would allow consumers to recover any amount lost because of the water service interruptions.

“We will be studying options if there is going to be a rebate. Normally, we do it in the next rate rebasing, but unfortunately congressmen are saying that 2022 is too long,” MWSS chief regulator Patrick Ty said.

 “We will discuss this after we fix the problem. They (Manila Water) hope to find a solution by April so we will study all options by that time,” he added.

Ty said a rebate has not happened in the past two years.

“Everything is on the table right now. But we just want to focus on water service recovery,” he said.

Sanctions eyed

The House of Representatives is eyeing penalties against Manila Water for failure to provide water supply around the clock to its consumers for more than a week.

The country’s water concession law should be revised to penalize firms that fail to comply with distribution agreements, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said.

“We have to add a penalty provision in the law for those who fail to comply with some parts of the concession agreement. That seems to be what’s missing in the law,” Arroyo told reporters.

Quezon City Rep. Winnie Castelo, who chairs the House committee on Metro Manila Development, convened the hearing.

Castelo agreed with Reps. Alfredo Benitez (Negros Occidental), Gus Tambunting (Parañaque), Manuel Lopez (Manila) and Bayani Fernando (Marikina) that Manila Water should be penalized.

During the hearing, Ty said Manila Water violated its concession agreement with the government when it failed to provide water for 24 hours daily to its customers.

He admitted that their hands are tied on the issue.

“Unfortunately, the MWSS cannot impose fines and penalties,” Ty said in response to the question raised by Benitez, chairman of the House committee on Housing and Urban Development.

The lawmakers urged the water concessionaire to compensate affected consumers.

The MWSS Regulatory Office has sent Manila Water notices of violation on March 8, 11 and 12.

As to the suspension of the water rate increase approved last year, Manila Water said this is a different issue.

“This is determined from expenses incurred in the past and future projects and how you recover those is reflected in the rate increase,” De la Cruz said.

Supply 90% restored

The Ayala-led firm reported restoring water supply to 90 percent of its customers, following the start of cross-border flows with west zone concessionaire Maynilad Water Services Inc. and more deep wells coming in.

However, the MWSS said service interruptions would continue as restoration remains on a staggered basis.

Manila Water interrupted its supply since last week in most of its concession area as the water level at La Mesa Dam dropped to critical levels amid El Niño and higher demand.

Supply from La Mesa Dam is Manila Water’s reserves since it has maximized allocation from Angat Dam at 1,600 million liters per day (MLD).

La Mesa Dam

Manila Water warned the public that more households in San Mateo and Montalban in Rizal would be affected if the critical level at La Mesa Dam slips further to 65 meters from the current 68 meters.

De la Cruz said the water concessionaire is monitoring its other plant in east La Mesa, which serves the two towns and has a capacity of 80 to 100 MLD.

“We have to prepare for contingencies. Right now, there is no impact yet but we have to slow down the withdrawal of that plant from the La Mesa reserves,” he said.

 “We have to make operational adjustments on the ground to manage the situation,” De la Cruz added.

Although the supply deficit will be addressed, De la Cruz said the water shortage would continue during the whole summer.

“But Manila Water will do its best under this limited supply situation,” he said. – With Delon Porcalla

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