The Age of Aquarius

Published December 31, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Milwida M. Guevara
Milwida M. Guevara

I wanted to start the New Year with a zodiac sign, and that is aquarius. Aquarius is the water bearer who bestows water or life upon the land.

One has only to remember the early 90s when we did not have water in our faucets. I had a senior position in government but set my pride aside in queuing up before a fire truck just to be able to fill a bucket full of water. We saved every drop because water was costly. Water was delivered once a week to our house and a gallon costs about ₱10.00. So it was with great celebration that we welcomed the privatization of MWSS. The agency did not have the wherewithal to fix leaky and rotten pipes. Illegal connections were rampant. Collectors were inefficient and corrupt. It was a picture of a government agency which had no accountability for its inefficient service. For the first time, we had water to drink, to bathe, to cook our food, to water our plants, to cook our food. What immense joy!

For the young ones who do not remember the times of water scarcity, I invite them to go to Marawi and many other areas where water is scarce and precious like gold. Imagine yourself not going to the bathroom for 8 hours because there is no water. And if it is so necessary, one has to bear the stench and the dirt. We had the same experience when we were in Tawi Tawi. But we were blessed with rain. Like small children, we showered under the rain.

Water is life. It is essential to health, sanitation, food production, manufacturing, generation of energy, among the thousand of others. It is a precious commodity and its processing for our consumption should be done well. Thus, we should all say no to its re-privatization. We should not allow a system that runs well be bungled all over again. We have had so many experiences of government interference that brings about inefficiencies due to politics, corruption and incompetence. My socialist friends would not agree, but the profit motive balanced with competition spurs efficiency, productivity, and innovation.

The privatization of the water system is one of the most hailed programs of the Philippine government. it was done well by the Economics team of President Ramos. We have no reason to doubt that they had the public interest at heart. But since the system that was being reformed was so bad, incentives had to be offered to investors most especially the right to adjust the rates relative to costs. It takes billions of pesos to bring potable water to users. Former Usec Romy Bernardo who was in-charge of privatization estimates the costs of storage, treatment facilities and underground distribution network at ₱166 billion for Manila Water and ₱208 billion for Maynilad.

The role of government is to see to it that the rule of law is observed and that the terms of contracts are enforced. Too much government interference and histrionics can be stifling and brings about the worst in us. There are so many communities without water. They would be well served if government focuses its efforts it bringing them water using technology such as rain harvesting.
2020 is the Year of the Rat. It is a year of new Beginnings and New Opportunities. We pray for faith and miracles.

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