Water, power, telecom debacle triggers moves to amend Public Services Act in Senate

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The water crisis, power outages, as well as interruptions in telecommunication services have bolstered proposals to amend the 82-year-old Public Services Act in Senate.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Grace Poe (MANILA BULLETIN) Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Grace Poe (MANILA BULLETIN)

Aside from reviewing the performance of utility companies, Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday cited the need to tackle and approve the proposed revision of The Commonwealth Act No.146 which governs public services such as water and power utilities, transportation, telecommunication, and mass media.

"All the more we need to debate and pass the Public Service Act and review all these corporations," Sotto told reporters.

The Upper Chamber, before adjourning last February, started the plenary debates on Senate Bill 1754, or the proposed "New Public Services Law of the Philippines."

The bill seeks to “improve the quality of goods and services of public service providers and lower the costs of the said goods and services at the same time," according to Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services.

Last month, 1.2 million households in the Metro Manila were affected by the depleting water supply of east concessionaire Manila Water Company, Inc.

While the firm has yet to restore normal operations, Maynilad Water Services, Inc. -- the water provider for the west zone of Metro Manila and Cavite -- has announced that it will implement temporary interruptions in its service areas during the Holy Week due to network enhancement and repair activities.

But the predicament of residents in the record-breaking summer heat will be aggravated by forced power outages in Luzon this month, which was blamed on operational malfunctions and technical problems in power plants.

On Friday, Globe Telecom apologized to its customers for a seven-hour internet and data service interruption early in the morning. The telecommunications service provider cited a "server issue" for the interruption.

Poe, following these, expressed dismay over the failing public utility services which she described as "forced penance" ahead of the Lent.

"Walang tubig, walang kuryente, walang internet. Sobrang kalbaryo. Sa susunod na linggo pa ang Mahal na Araw pero nauna na ang pwersahang penitensya," Poe said in a statement.

She vowed to push for the passage of the SB 1754 when Congress resumes in May. Its counterpart House Bill No. 5828 was approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives in 2017.

Poe, meanwhile, reminded companies of their agreements with the government requiring them to provide quality services to the public.

"May mga probisyon sa kontrata ng mga kumpanya na kailangang kalidad na serbisyo ang maibibigay sa taumbayan, at may kaukulang penalty ang hindi makakatugon," she said.

She also urged government regulators 'to be active" in such matters. "Dahil may mandato at kapangyarihan sila sa pagsisiguro nang maayos na pamamalakad ng mga kumpanyang ito," she said.