By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senators lauded on Tuesday the announcement of the Manila Water, Inc. waiving the fees it will charge its consumers for its failure to supply enough water.
Senator Grace Poe thanked the officials of the East Zone water concessionaire for finally deciding to compensate for its customers by implementing a voluntary “one-time bill waiver scheme” that would reflect on their April water bill.
“Mabuti naman may magandang kinahinatnan ang ating pagdinig at ang ating apela sa kanila na dapat ay mabigyan ng tulong ang ating mga kababayan (It’s nice that our hearing led to something good as we had appealed to them that our countryment should be given assistance),” Poe said in an interview in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The Senate Committee on Public Services, led by Poe, conducted last week an inquiry into the sudden outage of water supply in some 1.2 million households in the east area of Metro ManilA and Rizal.
The committee chair said the concessionaire’s move was a “good start” to ease the suffering of the families affected by the service interruption.
“Ang pinakamagandang umento na maibibigay nila ay magandang serbisyo na patuloy, so gumawa sila ng paraan para magkaroon ng sapat na suplay ng tubig. Pero dapat talaga ‘yung refund o ‘yung wala nang water bill do’n sa mga lugar na apektado,” Poe said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva also welcomed the Manila Water’s initiative, but maintained that penalties should still be imposed by the Metropolitan Water and Sewage System.
“This action should not preclude the regulator, MWSS Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO), to impose corresponding penalties and sanctions within the bounds of the concession agreement, which specifies service standards that the company must maintain, including the availability of water 24/7. The MWSS-RO should exercise its core mandate, which is to oversee the operation of its concessionaires. It has to keep a close watch on its performance and ensure both firms uphold their committed service standards,” Villanueva said in a statement.
“We also reiterate our reminder to our concessionaires about their obligations they committed under the concession agreement. They must abide by this and maintain service standards,” he added.
Villanueva also maintaned the need for more technical personnel in the MWSS to prevent the repeat of the water crisis.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, for his part, believed that Manila Water’s compensation was “not enough.”
“Kasi marami pa silang dapat ibigay or i-give back sa mga consumers,” he explained.
Lacson recalled the March 19 hearing wherein he pressed Manila Water president Ferdinand dela Cruz for the amount they charge for the construction of the delayed Cardona water treatment facility.
He said the water concessionaire should take it upon itself to suspend billing the consumers for the plant.
“Dapat umatras sila kaunti huwag muna maningil or i-waive muna sa Cardona water treatment na paniningil,” Lacson said.