By Genalyn Kabiling and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte has threatened to fire Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) officials and terminate the contracts with two water concessionaires amid his outrage over their alleged failure to prevent the recent water supply interruption in Metro Manila.
The President met with officials of MWSS, Manila Water, and Maynilad in Malacañang Tuesday night and ordered them to submit a report on the water shortage before April 7 so he can decide on their fate, according to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.
The closed-door meeting, in which Duterte vented his anger at the concerned water officials for their supposed failure to perform their job, lasted for 40 minutes.
“The President told them they could have simply anticipated such shortage and could have done something about it. They had to wait for him to threaten them with personally rushing to Manila from Davao to grapple with the crisis before they moved to end it. The Chief Executive bluntly told them to ‘shape up or ship out!’” Panelo said in a statement issued early Wednesday morning.
“In a stern message delivered without even once looking at the officials, the obviously outraged President threatened to fire the MWSS officials and terminate the concessionaires’ contracts,” he said.
Duterte told the officials he would not listen to their explanation about the water shortage since it would be “just plain excuses.”
“They simply did not do their job. ‘All they care about is get profit from the water of the people’ and to their sufferance as well,’” Panelo said.
The President said the officials knew of the problem leading to the stoppage of the flow of water but did not resolve to prevent it, according to Panelo.
“The President expressed his evident displeasure by saying that he hoped that at the end of the day, the water crisis was not just a matter of common sense,” he added.
Duterte also told the water officials that he was ready to take “swift and drastic” steps to protect the people.
“The President reiterated that he is constitutionally tasked to serve and protect the citizenry, and he will not equivocate to take swift and drastic actions to secure the people from discomfort and shield them from suffering, regardless of the dire consequences to the players of the water industry,” Panelo said.
“The meeting which was more of a presidential monologue lasting for about forty minutes abruptly ended by the President ordering the officials to submit a report on the water shortage before April 7, after which he will decide whether heads will roll or whether the contracts of the concessionaires will be terminated,” he added.
Many residents of Metro Manila endured water supply interruptions last week, prompting the President to direct authorities to release 150 days worth of water from Angat Dam. The water release aims to supply the affected areas in Metro Manila and distribute sufficient water to the residents.
The government earlier blamed the mismanagement and inefficiency of concerned water officials for the recent supply problem in Metro Manila.