By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, chairwoman of the Senate health committee, welcomed Tuesday the move by Manila Water to voluntarily waive its fees for the month of March to “ease the convenience” of its consumers caused by its water supply shortage.
“It is a “big win for ordinary paying consumers. This is certainly a big victory for consumers. But we must not stop here. There is more that needs to be done in order to prevent this crisis from happening again,’’ she said.
“I hope this development will serve as a stepping stone as we thoroughly scrutinize the concession agreements entered into by our government with private water companies and revisit the government’s overall privatization policy of public utilities, such as water,” she added.
Hontiveros also called on Manila Water to reimburse public hospitals affected by the water crisis. She said that reimbursing public hospitals is the next step after waiving its consumers’ bill next month.
Citing data obtained from the Department of Health (DOH), Hontiveros said that six public hospitals suffered total losses of P4.116 million at the height of the water crisis.
She said that from March 8-18, the Rizal Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), National Center for Mental Health, East Avenue Medical Center and the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center sustained added operational costs amounting to P1.372 million.
Meanwhile, from March 12-18, the Rizal Medical Center and the NKTI incurred estimated revenue losses of P630,000 and PP1.750 million, respectively, or a total of P 2.380 million as a result of limiting patients due to the limited water supply.
“In the same spirit and principle that guided them in waiving its water fees for the month of April as a form of compensation to consumers, I call on Manila Water to immediately reimburse the said public hospitals and compensate them for the public health risks their patients were exposed to because of the water crisis. It must make good on its promise to compensate all those who were severely affected by the water crisis and help restore consumer trust and confidence,” Hontiveros said.
It was reported that during the Senate’s hearing on the water shortage, officials from the Rizal Medical Center said that they spent approximately P100,000 on the emergency procurement of water containers, about P50,000 for bottled water and P260,000 for an upgraded pump for the hospital’s cistern. The RMC said that it also spent for the fuel that fire trucks used to pump the water supply.