After having achieved major improvements in its water supply services, Ayala-owned Manila Water Co. is investing heavily on wastewater and sanitation projects this year.
Half of Manila Water's whopping P10 billion capital outlay for 2009 would go to its wastewater treatment program, according to company president Antonio Aquino.
This year's spending budget is more than double the P4.2 billion allocated last year.
"Our focus is largely on wastewater now," Aquino said, noting that most of their customers already enjoy 24 hours of water availability.
Manila Water, which services the east zone of Metro Manila, has stepped up efforts in increasing sewerage and sanitation coverage in its concession area to manage wastewater disposal, which it said, was the main culprit in the pollution of river bodies.
Aquino said they would continue to invest in upgrading the Magallanes Sewage Treatment Plant, catering mainly to the Makati business district, and the South Septage Treatment Plant (SSTP) in Taguig City.
The SSTP, which is said to be the biggest septage treatment facility in Southeast Asia, has the capacity to process 815 cubic meters of sludge per day from more than 86,000 households in Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Taguig, San Juan and Pateros.
Also, to revitalize the Marikina and Pasig river systems, Aquino said Manila Water would be putting in place several other sewerage treatment plants.
Aquino stressed they would not hold back on expenditures this year even with the delay in the implementation of the rate-rebasing tariff adjustment for 2009.
Every five years, regulators conduct the rate-rebasing exercise to set the needed tariff adjustments in relation to water utilities' spending programs.
"We will continue with our capex program and make sure the delay in tariff adjustments will be mitigated through cost and operational efficiency measures. We don't want to go on a downward spiral by cutting investments," he said.
Manila Water has increased rates this month but only to cover inflation and fluctuations in the foreign exchange.
The bulk of the approved rate-rebasing adjustment due for implementation this year was deferred by regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System to soften the impact of water rate hikes on consumers.
Aquino said that despite the deferment, "we will still be able to accomplish our investment objectives."
He said the company's P10 billion capex program this year would be funded through internal cash and proceeds from its P4 billion bond issuance last year.
"We have enough money," said Aquino.
Manila Water, which has 5.6 million customers in the east zone, ended 2008 with a net income of P2.79 billion, up 15.8 percent year-on-year, owing to higher billed volume.
The company said its investments added 46,765 new household connections to its customer base and allowed it to bring down its non-revenue water or water losses to 19.60 percent in 2008 from 24 percent in 2007.