Rep. Suarez pitches for a regular budget for MWSS

Published March 20, 2019, 4:46 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Charissa Luci-Atienza 

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez batted on Wednesday for a regular budget for the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), citing that the MWSS’ operational expenses are being paid by the water concessionaires, which he described as “unethical.”

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez  (HoR / MANILA BULLETIN)
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez

He made the pitch during the House Committee on Public Accounts hearing Wednesday on the water shortage in some parts of Metro Manila and Rizal.

“Now we had been suggesting that MWSS’ budget should come from the GAA (General Appropriations Act). They perform their jobs as a regular office of the government,” Suarez, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, told the hearing.

He said the MWSS’s operations and expenditures are being paid by Maynilad and Manila Water.

“So the regulator is being paid by the regulatees. We’re not saying nagkakaroon ng bias dito sa arrangement na ito. Pero para mawala na yung sinasabi natin na maybe MWSS is soft on their stance, dahil ‘yung kanilang nire-regulate ‘yun ang nagpapasweldo sa kanila,” Suarez said.

“It is unethical kung sino ang nagreregulate sya ang nagbibigay ng sahod,” he said in an interview.

Maynilad Chief Operating Officer Randolph Estrellado and Manila Water president and chief-executive-officer Ferdinand Dela Cruz confirmed to the Suarez panel that they pay yearly concession fees.

“Nagbabayad ho kami ng concession fees sa MWSS. Sa pagkakaintindi ko ho parte nun pambayad sa utang at parte is ‘yung cost of operations ng MWSS so dun ho nanggaling lahat ng gastusin nila,” Estrellado said.

He told the panel that each concessionaire pay P400 million yearly.

Dela Cruz said due to inflation, the concession fees now stand at P522 million for each concessionaire.

“So P1 billion na, the public deserves better services with that kind of revenue,” Suarez said.

During the hearing, Suarez also sought the development of new water sources “to finally end the water crisis,” citing the Sumag river diversion project and Kanan river bulk water supply.

He said the Kanan River Bulk Water supply located above the Kaliwa Dam is seen as a possible replacement for Laiban Dam as a water source for Metro Manila.

He noted that the Energy World has presented the project which shall encompass utilization of hydro power and wind power, while providing sufficient bulk water to Metro Manila, nearby municipalities, and irrigation.

“This project is from the public-private partnership with the Quezon Province and will entail no cost to the government,” he said.

Suarez said he preferred local private partnerships than the China-funded Kaliwa dam.

“Now, we have a private sector who is saying we can do the same with even better services and features. Hindi gagastos ang gobyerno, kikita pa ang gobyerno,” he said.

“Mas mabuti na dito na lang sa Pilipinas mangutang, instead of tapping foreign banks,” he pointed out.

During the hearing, Dela Cruz and MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Lester Ty got a dressing down from lawmakers for failing to do their job.

BUHAY partylist Rep. Lito Atienza reiterated his call to Dela Cruz to resign.

“Dapat magresign ka. Feeling sorry or saying sorry is not enough. You have failed as management, marketing man, we cannot take your sorry,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Dela Cruz said he “would be extremely happy to resign” if “my resignation today will only erase our supply deficit but also resolve to a united front to urgently build new water sources.”

“Let the Manila water crisis today be the catalyst for all of us to stop blaming each other and for once, work together for a really serious effort on an implementable 50-year water security master plan for Metro Manila,” he said.

He vowed to fully cooperate with the MWSS Regulatory Office that is expected to review its performance during the water shortage incident against its service obligation of providing 24/7 service.

During the hearing, Ty confirmed that they were scolded by President Duterte on Tuesday night over the weeklong water shortage.

“We did not make any presentation. The President scolded us. The President made marching orders,” he said.

President Duterte on Tuesday night met with officials of MWSS, Manila Water and Maynilad in Malacañang Tuesday night. During the meeting, Mr. Duterte threatened to fire the MWSS officials and terminate the contracts with Manila Water and Maynilad , as he ordered them to report on water shortage before April 7. (Charissa M. Luci-Atienza) ###