Utility firms asked to help reduce poverty

Published November 7, 2019, 11:50 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Chito Chavez

Cause-oriented group Infrawatch PH urged public utilities to institute sustained poverty-alleviation programs in their concession areas.

The infrastructure-oriented think tank organized by lawyer Terry Ridon, former Kabataan congressman and ex-head of the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor (PCUP) said highly-profitable utilities like Meralco, Manila Water and Maynilad should help reduce poverty rates, first by reducing electricity and water charges especially in poor communities.

“As businesses imbued with public interest, power and water concessionaires should be able to create programs on how to expand access of informal settler communities to power and water services,” Ridon said.

Ridon noted one successful project is Manila Water’s Tubig Para sa Barangay (TPSB) program, which installed a new water pipeline system benefiting 500 urban poor households in Taytay, Rizal in 2017.

“During our stint in PCUP, Manila Water’s TPSB program was also able to reduce the water tariff in that community from P50/cubic meter to as low as P15/cubic meter,” he added.

Ridon also cited the community electrification program of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), which has started delivering electricity to at least 19 marginalized communities.

“Meralco’s electrification program is a welcome development in marginalized communities, because access to electricity has always been a perennial problem due to countless legal issues,” he noted.

Meralco described its program as providing alternatives to electrification efforts “through workable socialized schemes for various community beneficiaries.

“These workable socialized schemes have expedited the electrification processes in local communities, which usually faced setbacks at the barangay level,” he noted.

The distribution utility is also building facilities for 28 more communities, including five in Batangas and 23 in Metro Manila.

“These projects will most definitely spur the local economy in these areas, and potentially reduce electricity rates, as marginalized families will have no more need to resort to illegal, dangerous and expensive sub-metering arrangements previously prevailing in these communities,” Ridon said.

Ridon called on other water and power concessionaires to implement similar programs in marginalized communities to expedite poverty-reduction mechanisms in their respective areas.