Playing with water

Published March 21, 2019, 12:14 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Jullie Y. Daza
Jullie Y. Daza

My maid asked in her best traumatized voice of experience, “Are they playing a trick on us?”

She meant, how was Manila No Water able to release torrents of water abruptly into our homes after seven days of bone-crunching “water service interruption”?

At Tuesday’s hearing, Senator Grace Poe asked the same question but she put it more politely than my maid: What did Manila No Water do to make the sea change from waterless to 90 percent consumers enjoying 80 percent supply? (All this, at the sound of PRRD’s threat to “personally go to your office and talk to those responsible”? Thank you, Mr. President.)

The answer could’ve been a stream of gobbledygook but Ferdinand de la Cruz said, “We tweaked the network,” which still sounded like a puzzle. If I heard right, he added, “to make it stable by June.” In other words, things will get worse before they get wetter.

The four-hour hearing brought me to the edge of an ocean of despair and fears of a revolution of the great unwashed.

There are 32-plus government agencies paid to play with our water system, which is not even a national but merely “metropolitan” utility. The board of MWSS has five lawyers and not a single civil engineer, headed by an ex-general. (After all, we are a nation of lawyers more than of engineers.) Since October, Manila No Water has been charging us higher rates for the Cardona treatment plant even before it can be completed – only in the Philippines! – the delays in construction cited as the cause of the cut-off. Ernesto Ordonez, a former DTI usec, warned against “collusion between the private sector and government,” a redundant but necessary reminder at this time. Surrounded by so much water, we could give desalination a try, but it would cost us P80 a cubic meter (the current rate is between P13 and P18). MWSS is the regulator but it cannot punish or penalize Manila No Water and Maynilad; on second thought, said its Patrick Ty two days later, it can – if it waits three years for that clause in their contracts to kick in.

To wade in and cheer up the people, Malacañang announced that there’s no water crisis. No crisis, folks, only cries, “Tuuubiiig!”