Poe calls for MWSS revamp

Published March 20, 2019, 8:00 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) should undergo a revamp to include experts who would understand the country’s water situation, Senator Grace Poe said on Tuesday.

Senator Grace Poe (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Grace Poe
(Senate of the Philippines official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Poe recommended this following the Senate Committee on Public Services’ first hearing on the water crisis experienced in cities in Metro Manila and Rizal covered by Manila Water Company, Inc. The senator led the hearing as the committee chair.

She said MWSS lacked in foresight and was remiss in assessing the water supply of Metro Manila despite warnings from the East Zone water concessionaire since last year that it is already depleting.

“Sa tingin ko hindi din nila ginagawa ang trabaho nila. Alam mo, ang nakakalungkot dito, malaki ang naging pagkukulang ng Manila Water, pero sa tingin ko, mas malaki ang pagkukulang ng MWSS (I think they are not doing their job. You know, the sad reality is Manila Water had huge shortcomings, but I believe MWSS had worse),” Poe told reporters in an interview after the Senate inquiry.

“Hindi nila nakita ‘yong problema dahil hindi nila naintindihan (They did not see the problem coming because they did not understand it),” she added.

Poe said more engineers and professionals should be hired in the agency since they could understand water infrastructure better.

During the hearing, Senator Joel Villanueva pointed out that Republic Act No. 6234 or the MWSS Charter, provides that the MWSSS Board of Trustees “shall possess any one or a combination of the following qualifications: (a) duly licensed professional of recognized competence in civil engineering and/or sanitary engineering; (b) business management and finance, and law, or (c) recognized labor leader within the ranks with sufficient training, particularly in the field of labor-management relations or corporate practice.”

MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco said the current board consists of six lawyers, two retired officials from the military and police, and one engineer.

Meanwhile, the lone engineer in the board, Merly Cruz, is licensed in chemical engineering.

“We’re shocked when we discovered that not one single board member of the current MWSS Board of Trustees possessed a degree in civil or sanitation engineering, a clear violation of its charter,” Villanueva said.

Poe stressed the need to reorganize the MWSS leadership to aid in addressing the water crisis.

“The composition has to be according to how that law was actually intended. Dapat talaga mayroong [civil] engineer doon, a technical expert who understands the situation because if they are all lawyers, wala silang gagawin kundi mga ligal na bagay lang pero hindi mga teknikal na makaka-apekto sa daloy ng tubig,” she said.

At the hearing, Senator Franklin Drilon also pressed MWSS officials for long-term solutions on the water crisis that has gripped several cities in the capital for about two weeks.

Velasco confessed that the agency lacked a master plan in the several projects it mentioned in the hearing. He admitted that MWSS so far works on “short-term” responses to the issue.

He also mentioned the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project, which will take five years to complete.

“Hindi na po tuloy nakapagtataka kung bakit malabo ang sagot sa tanong kung mayroon bang long-term na plano ang ahensya para maiwasan ang krisis sa supply ng tubig,” Villanueva said.

Poe believes that MWSS officials “should be replaced.”