By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Manila Water Company, Inc. has been urged to stop charging consumers for its Cardona, Rizal, water treatment facility which has yet to be completed.
Senator Panfilo Lacson grilled Manila Water president and chief executive officer Ferdinand Dela Cruz over the fees that their company has been collecting from its customers for the Rizal Water Treatment Plant despite the delay in its establishment.
Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) officials have repeatedly pointed as one of the culprits of the current water shortage the concessionaire’s failure to finish the facility as targeted.
The Cardona plant, which would draw water from the Laguna Lake, was supposed to start operating in December last year.
During the Senate Committee on Public Services’ hearing Tuesday on the water crisis experienced in the east zones of Metro Manila and Rizal, Dela Cruz admitted the Manila Water has included the treatment facility in the monthly bills of consumers since 2015.
The company started building the plant in May 2016, after the MWSS approved its business plan for the project.
“Hindi pa kayo nagstart ng construction, nagkokolekta na kayo (You have not started on the construction and yet you are already collecting from consumers)?” Lacson observed.
Dela Cruz confirmed this, but failed to disclose how much the Manila Water is charging from its customers. He explained it forms part of the “basket of expenses” that the MWSS approves.
Lacson said he finds it an “irony” to have the consumers pay for the Cardona plant when it was the “major” cause of the water crisis.
He appealed to Manila Water to consider suspending, “as a sign of good faith”, its charge for the construction of the facility.
“Since [you] have not delivered, and the reason for this crisis was because [you] were delayed for three months, maybe you can, on your own, unilaterally [decide], ‘Fine, let’s not charge people in the meantime.’ Isn’t that a morally-correct action to take?” Lacson said in Filipino.
Dela Cruz, in response, said he has instructed his men to “look for ways” on how the company could help in the return of the services they have not rendered. He said the company will also subject itself to the penalties that will be imposed by MWSS.
MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty said the regulatory office can convince Manila Water to stop charging fees for the meantime, especially for services that have not been delivered.
Despite the views of government officials, Dela Cruz denied that the Cardona plant was to blame for the lack of the water supply. He maintained that it was due to a shortage in supply from the La Mesa reservoir.
At the hearing, he said the delay in the operations of Manila Water’s “most complicated” water treatment plant was caused by a structural leak in the facility’s discharge pipe, which lies beneath a street in Cardona.
He said it also required a “sophisticated” technology to process raw Laguna lake fluid into water that would pass the standards of the Department of Health. It should undergo a “28-day run” wherein it should consistently pass certain standards.
Dela Cruz said the Cardona plant was supposed to supply 100 million liters per day (MLD) of water to consumers.
The company was only able to address its issues last March 14, producing 24 MLD. The Manila water eyes to produce 40 MLD from the Cardona plant next month, Dela Cruz said.