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Palace mulls return of water services under gov’t control

Updated

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said it is looking at the possibility of government taking back control of water services in Metro Manila due to the water rationing residents are experiencing.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the remark after Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said government should ditch the privatization of water services since there is no water security under privatization.

“We have always asserted that privatization is wrong. We must abandon privatization and government should take over these water utilities to ensure not just water security but also transparency and accountability,” Zarate said.

In his press briefing, Panelo said Malacañang is studying the proposal.

“Pinag-aaralan lahat ng makakabuti sa mga kababayan natin. Lahat iyan ay kasama sa pag-aaral (We are studying everything that will benefit the public. All options are being considered),” he said.

“Pinag-aaralan lahat ng mga pupuwedeng gawin (We’re looking at everything we can do) to solve the problem,” he added.

The water interruption in Metro Manila started in March this year, affecting an estimated 52,000 households because of the low water level in La Mesa Dam.

Manila Water spokesperson Jeric Sevilla on Sunday said the water interruption in Metro Manila and nearby provinces will continue until the water level in Angat Dam remains in critical level.

He said the 17-hour water service interruption is already beyond the agency’s control.

“This situation is going to persist until we get safe and sustainable levels in Angat,” Sevilla said in an interview with ANC.

Not ‘force majeure’

Meanwhile, a lady lawmaker has called on the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to impose “new and harsher” penalties against the Maynilad and Manila Water for their supposed “incompetence and profiteering.”

“Dapat na pagmultahin muli ang Manila Water at isama na rin pati Maynilad sa nagpapatuloy na perwisyong ito sa ating mga kababayan. Doblehin o triplehin pa ang rebate na ibibigay sa mga customer sa mga susunod na buwan hanggang hindi naibabalik sa normal ang suplay ng tubig (Manila Water and Maynilad should be penalized for this continuing inconvenience. The rebate that will be given to customers in the following months should be doubled or tripled until the supply of water normalizes),” Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said.

She noted that the rebate this month is only for the massive inconvenience last March.

Brosas said the regulating body should not give in to the whims of the two private water concessionaires, saying incompetence and profiteering are not “force majeure”.

“The MWSS as the regulating body should not buy the alibi of the two private water concessionaires in their attempt to escape liability over the suffering of waterless households. Hindi force majeure ang kapalpakan at pagkaganid sa tubo kundi pwersahang pagperwisyo sa mga konsyumer,” she said.

Brosas made the call as the MWSS board is set to tackle the force majeure petition of the water firms as millions of Metro Manila households continue to suffer from daily water interruptions.

“Malinaw ang nakasaad kahit sa concession agreement. Pwede lang palusutin ang Maynilad at Manila Water sa kawalan ng tubig kung may gera, tagtuyot at iba pang matinding kalamidad,” Brosas said.

She stressed that the lingering water crisis should be not used by the water concessionaires to renew their call for the construction of the China loan-financed Kaliwa Dam.

“Napaka-obvious ng maniobra ng MWSS para ikatwiran ang pangangailangan sa Kaliwa Dam bunsod umano ng krisis sa tubig. Pero hindi ba tayo nagtataka na sa kabila ng konstruksyon ng iba’t ibang treatment plants at pagpasok ng tag-ulan, pinalalabas pa ring kapos ng Angat Dam? Something fishy is going around here,” Brosas said.

“We assert that the government should take over the operations of the two concessionaires which include the water supply and distribution in the East and West Zones. Kailangang i-reverse ang pribatisasyon ng serbisyong tubig na basic need ng mamamayan,” she added. (With a report from Charissa Luci-Atienza)

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