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Metro Manila’s water shortage

March 13, 2019

“Never in my six decades on this planet have I ever had to queue for a miserable pail of water,” says one resident of Mandaluyong, among the tens of thousands affected by the ongoing water supply crisis in parts of Metro Manila and neighboring Rizal province.

The water shortage came with very little warning, not enough for residents in the East Zone concession, which is handled by the Ayala-led Manila Water Co., to make adequate preparations.

But one household can only conserve or prepare so much for a water shortage. The weather bureau warned of an El Niño dry spell late last year, which made it incumbent upon water regulators and Manila Water to ensure contingencies.

Instead, the East Zone households are told to wait for the rains to refill the reservoirs of Angat Dam in Bulacan, the primary water source for Metro Manila, and La Mesa Dam, a secondary source. In the meantime, they must grin and bear with it.

Manila Water was supposed to be the better one of the two concessionaires that won the bidding for the historic privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997. Unlike the West Zone, handled by Maynilad Water Services Inc., which suffered a significant amount of nonrevenue water (read: water leaks everywhere), Manila Water got the good deal.

In fact, debt-saddled Maynilad had to switch owners, after the Lopezes gave up on their franchise and sold it to a consortium between Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and the Consunji family’s DMCI construction business.

The expertise and profitability gained by Manila Water allowed it to become a publicly listed company and even obtain concessions from neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. It is, thus, hard to understand that Manila Water was unable to plan for a big contingency in its home country.

It is also shocking that more than two decades after privatization, the two utilities, Manila Water and Maynilad, along with the MWSS Regulatory Office (RO), have not established additional water resources that could serve Metro Manila and neighboring areas.

In the intervening years, Metro Manila must have added millions more to its daytime population. The MWSS-RO has among the highest-paid board members and executives; they should have their performance bonuses cut at least for their complacency and lack of adequate long-term planning.

The National Water Resources Board also has some explaining to do. This little-known government agency, in charge of water allocations from Angat, should be more transparent with its decisions, which affect millions of people. It should also disseminate its decisions more effectively. Its website for instance is unbelievably outdated — its El Niño action plan is for the years 2015 to 2016.

We wonder why, at this point, the usually noisy legislators have not raised hell and called for inquiries in aid of legislation against the water utilities and their regulators. Metro Manilans cannot be offered silly excuses and finger-pointing, much less finger-wagging. Someone has to answer for this water crisis misery reported to affect up to 52,000 households in the metropolis.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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