By Ben Rosario
Former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday called on the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to spare water users of service interruption by lowering the pressure of water distributed in the East Zone of its service area.
This developed as Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao vowed to hold accountable the two concessionaires of Metro Manila and make them pay for the water shortage that has affected huge parts of the metropolis.
On the other hand, Bayan Muna chairman and Makabayan senatorial bet Neri Colmenares and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate slammed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez for using the water shortage problem as justification for the construction of the Kaliwa River Dam to be funded out of a loan from China.
Arroyo went on an inspection tour of an MWSS cross border pipe in Quezon City Friday. She was accompanied by MWSS officials and members of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development.
Before this, she and several House officials were briefed by the MWSS on the precarious water situation in Metro Manila.
The House leader said one solution to the water crisis is to avoid water interruption by lowering the water pressure in the East Zone and allow more customers to have water.
“It is a short-term solution to distribute the water more efficiently to more areas,” Arroyo said.
Speaker Arroyo initiated the briefing to help the government find immediate solutions to the ongoing water problem in the East Zone as a prelude to the House Oversight Committee hearing on Monday on the issue.
Also present in the briefing conducted by the MWSS were Reps. Winston Castelo (PDP-Laban, QC) and Bayani Fernando (NP, Marikina City), chairman of the House Committees on Metro Manila Development and on Public Works and Highways, respectively.
Speaker Arroyo said she is eyeing the filing of a bill that offers a sustainable and long-term solution to the water situation in the country.
Meanwhile, Casilao said the two water concessionaires running the water distribution service in Metro Manila should be held accountable for the water crisis.
“The people are victimized repeatedly by these privatized operations of the concessionaires, whose primary mission is to rake in billions of pesos of profits, at the cost of the people’s miseries,” he said in a press statement.
The fundamental enabler of this fiasco is the Republic Act 8041 or the Water Crisis Act that privatized the major operations of MWSS, the lawmaker said.
“The people, under the Water for the People Network have been demanding the reversal of MWSS privatization and reformed public sector take-over on the 20th year of privatized operations in October 2017,” he said.
Meanwhile, Colmenares and Zarate decried Dominguez’s insistence in pursuing the China-funded Kaliwa River project as a new source of water for Metro Manila.
The two opposition personalities cited the “disastrous” effects of the project to thousands of indigenous people in Tanay who will be displaced as government plunges their communities into water.
“Maybe Dominguez should address first the mismanagement and greed of Manila Water and not use our people’s woes to pitch for another potentially onerous China project,” said Colmenares.
For his part, Zarate said “this claim of water crisis is alarming, even highly suspect. However, the China loan and possible displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands and the harmful effects of this project to our environment, are also causes for even more concern.”
“We may have to consider that instead of building mega-dams, government should instead study other viable options to ensure the water supply, like stricter regulation and management of water concessionaires, ensuring consumer use efficiency and repairing leakages, which result to water waste,” Zarate stated.