Manila Water, MWSS officials won't resign amid solons' calls

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18) — Officials directly involved in the widespread water crisis in Metro Manila and nearby areas refused to resign amid the call of two solons.

Representatives Lito Atienza and Bernadette Herrera-Dy demanded the resignation of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Chief Regulator Patrick Ty and Manila Water President Ferdinand dela Cruz.

Atienza said both the government and private water concessionaires failed the public. He asked dela Cruz if he's thinking of resigning. The Manila Water boss said that although he is ready to step down, he'd rather find ways to fix the problem.

"I am prepared to resign for failing the customers. But my focus right now is to restore the service even if it's in a slow process," he told the House panel inquiry into the water crisis.

Atienza then threw the question to Ty, to which the chief regulator replied, "We don't run from problems. We want to face this. We are up to the challenge to fix this problem."

The Manila Water President also took the blame for the widespread water crisis. He said he will never forget the day the public was caught off guard by the water supply shortage that would leave customers crippled for a week.

"I am holding myself fully accountable for the sudden drop in our service levels... Noon pong nagsimulang serbisyuhan ng Manila Water ang publiko, ipinangako po namin na hindi na po kayo magpipila-balde at maghihintay ng nag-rarasyon ng tubig. Ngunit noong nakaraang linggo, binigo ko po kayo. March 6, 2019 is a date I will not forget as president of Manila Water," he said during a House panel's inquiry into the water crisis.

[Translation: I am holding myself fully accountable for the sudden drop in our service levels. When Manila Water began providing water services to the public, we promised that you won't have to queue for water rations. But last week, I failed you. March 6, 2019 is a date I will not forget as president of Manila Water.]

Over 260,000 Manila Water consumers were left without water or with low water pressure for a week, with Mandaluyong City residents hit hardest. Beginning March 14, the east zone concessionaire has rationed supply to all its customers.

Manila Water said 90 percent of its service areas have water supply, although it is still on a rationed schedule. It said it is working to service the remaining 10 percent without water in parts of Pasig, San Mateo, Taguig, and Tandang Sora in Quezon City.

The water company has also deployed short-term solutions, such as the cross border sharing with Maynilad, operation of the Cardona water treatment plant in Cardona in Rizal that taps the Laguna Lake, reactivation of deep wells, and deployment of water tankers.

Cardona plant

Atienza also slammed Manila Water's admission that it will only meet "99 percent of waste water coverage" by 2037, despite the fact that water treatment facilities should have been done by 1997. He said the consumers have been paying for the construction - at least 20 percent of their monthly water bill.

"Ang kontrata, dapat noong nagpirmahan, ginawa na ninyo sapagkat nangongolekta kayo sa consumers. At hindi lang iyon, ipinangutang niyo pa 'yan sa World Bank, Asian Development Bank, at mga international funding institutions. So where did all these funds go to? Kolekta nang kolekta, wala namang serbisyo," he said.

[Translation: Contracts when signed must be enacted since you collected from consumers. And not only that, you borrowed money for that from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and international funding institutions. So where did all these funds go to? You collect and collect, but your services fail.]

Herrera-Dy grilled Ty for the MWSS's inaction over Manila Water's failure to start the construction of the Cardona Water Treatment Plant in 2008. She said that if only the timeline based on the business plan was followed, the country's capital won't experience a water shortage.

"Ikaw [You], as a human and as a consumer, do you think that it's fair? Are you willing to pay in advance for something that will be created 8 years later? 2008 pa lang nasa plano na ang Cardona Plant [The Cardona plant has been in the pipeline since 2008]," she said.

Dela Cruz confirmed it has been collecting water rates for the construction for years now. He said Manila Water will provide the House panel with its total sewage and environmental charges from its 1.2 million customers since 1997.