Consumers can file civil cases vs. Manila Water – DOJ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said affected customers can sue water concessionaire Manila Water for the crippling water interruptions that is hitting eastern Metro Manila and Rizal Province.

"If there is showing of fault or negligence on the part of Manila Water and if it is established that this crisis is caused not by natural causes or force majeure (unforeseeable circumstance), then affected consumers may file damage suits individually," he said in a text message.

The Justice Secretary said a civil case can be filed if it is proven that there was negligence on the company's part.

"There must be evidence of this fault or negligence before one can file a civil complaint. This evidence must then be presented to the court during the trial," he said.

He,however, said a class suit is not a legal option because of the water interruptions affected Manila Water customers differently depending on their location.

"It can't be a class suit because each one may be differently affected or damaged by the same act or omission on the part of Manila Water, if any and if indeed shown to be tortious," he said.

A government is investigating the possible "mismanagement" and "inefficiency" of water distribution by Manila Water, even as water levels in Angat Dam - the main water source of Metro Manila - are still within normal ranges. Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo said the government is not discounting the possibility of an "artificial" water shortage.

On March 7, customers of Manila Water were surprised by an unannounced water interruption. Since then, its 1.2 million customers have been experiencing no water supply or low water pressure. The water concessionaire attributes the shortage to the lowering level of water at the La Mesa reservoir in Quezon City due to the dry spell. However, the National Water Resources Board, which manages Angat Dam, said the current supply can last for the whole summer, but Manila Water's infrastructure can only take in a limited volume of water.