House eyes penalties for water concession violations: Arroyo

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 18 2019 09:37 AM | Updated as of Mar 21 2019 04:53 PM

MANILA -- The Philippines' water concession law may need to be revised to penalize firms that fail to comply with distribution agreements, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Monday, as the House investigated a water crisis that has brought misery to tens of thousands.

Manila Water, responsible for the capital's east zone, violated its concession agreement with the government when it failed to provide water for 24 hours in a day, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System chief regulator Patrick Ty said.

"Unfortunately," the MWSS cannot impose fines and penalties, Ty said, in response to a question from Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez.

"Perhaps in the law, we have to add a penalty provision for those who do not comply with the, who fail to comply with some parts of the concession agreement," Arroyo told reporters, recalling a conversation with Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, whose committee convened Monday's hearing.

"He says that seems to be what's missing in the law," Arroyo said, referring to Castelo.

Manila Water president and CEO Ferdinand dela Cruz clarified that the distributor could be penalized under its concession agreement, depending on how long it takes to correct a violation.

Dela Cruz earlier took responsibility for the shortage, which has affected tens of thousands and disrupted business. He said the cost of responding to the shortage would not be charged to customers.

"It's a good thing from the beginning Manila Water admitted their shortcomings. The hearing is not to find out who to blame but rather how to move forward," Arroyo said.

Legislators questioned the MWSS and Manila Water about plans on to meet projected demands of a growing metropolis.

The MWSS needs to serve 18 million people, from just 10 million when water services was privatized in 1997, said its Administrator, Reynaldo Velasco, in response to Majority Leader Fred Castro.

Velasco said the MWSS knew in 1997 that there would be enough supply if leakages of non-revenue water were addressed.

“Kulang po sa foresight ang ating mga namamahala sa MWSS
Kulang sa foresight ang nagpapatakbo ng ating water supply
Totoo po ba yun?” Castro asked. 

(The leadership of the MWSS lacked foresight in managing our water supply. Is that true?)

“Siguro totoo noon pero hindi na ngayon,” Velasco said.

(Maybe that is true then but not now.)

With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News