Senate panel eyes Manila Water sanctions
Sen. Grace Poe headed the Senate inquiry into the water shortage in Metro Manila last Tuesday.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
Senate panel eyes Manila Water sanctions
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - March 20, 2019 - 3:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on public services is set to recommend sanctions for water concessionaire Manila Water after holding a hearing on the water shortage in Metro Manila and Rizal province.

The Senate panel headed by Sen. Grace Poe would also suggest restructuring regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System board after dismissing the earlier warnings of water concessionaires on water shortage.

The committee would soon release a preliminary report following its inquiry into the water shortage last Tuesday.

"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," Poe said in a radio interview Wednesday.

The senator also pointed out that MWSS administrator Reynaldo Velasco kept on insisting that supply at Angat Dam was sufficient while private concessionaires have been raising concerns.

Poe noted that instead of acting on the warnings of concessionaires that there will be a water shortage, the MWSS denied it.

“Ang MWSS ay siyang dapat nagsasabi, nakikita na kung mayroong pagkukulang ang mga concessionaires na ‘yan o mga korporasyon na ‘yan," Poe said.

The Senate panel report would also include a recommendation that the MWSS board should be composed of civil engineers, finance and recognized labor leaders as stated in the MWSS charter.

The water regulatory body is currently comprised of two retired military and police officials, a chemical engineer and six lawyers.

"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," the senator said.

Poe also took note how MWSS chief regulator Patrick Ty backtracked on his previous remarks that he does not have authority to impose penalties against Manila Water.

Manila Water has violated its obligation under the concession agreement to provide uninterrupted water service to its customers in the east concession zone.

During the Senate inquiry last Tuesday, Ty apologized for previously failing to articulate himself on the penalty for the Ayala-led water service provider.

Ty later on clarified that the MWSS would come up with a decision and a definite computation of the fines against Manila Water until June.

The Senate committee would also tackle the China-funded construction of Kaliwa Dam in Quezon province. Under the Aquino administration, the project was approved as a private-public partnership project but the Duterte administration decided to make it an official development project funded by another country through a loan.

The Senate, however, would have to wait for the submissions of the MWSS on the financing of the Kaliwa Dam. It was one of the agreements signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Manila in November.

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