By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Water rates in Metro Manila are the lowest among major urban centers in the Philippines, according to a statement released by water concessionaires, data from the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) showed.
LWUA data showed that water costs ₱10.4 per cubic meter in the capital region. That is the lowest among 11 other metro areas and cities across the country.
Water rates were highest in Baguio City, with consumers there paying up to ₱37 per cu m. Water rates in Metro Manila were also lower than in the cities of San Jose Del Monte (₱28 per cu m), Cagayan de Oro (₱21.80), Bacolod (₱20.80), Batangas (₱20.50), Cabanatuan (₱19.20), Angeles (₱19.20), and Dasmarinas (₱17.30).
Metro Iloilo and Metro Cebu also figured higher, with ₱15.90 per cu m, and ₱15.20, respectively. Water rates in Davao City were pegged at ₱13.70 per cu m, still higher than in Metro Manila.
Some 13 million mostly low-income consumers in Metro Manila have enjoyed a windfall since water distribution was privatized 22 years ago.
Manila Water and Maynilad brought down water rates from as high as ₱10 per cu m to about ₱2.50 per cu m, soon after they took over from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
“We now have 100 percent coverage. Water runs for 24 hours. Water loss is down to 10 percent. People no longer have to queue with pails to get water. All that happened at no cost to the government, to the Philippines,” former MWSS administrator Angel Lazaro said in a radio interview.
Lazaro helmed the MWSS when the government, under then President Fidel Ramos, privatized water distribution in Metro Manila in 1997.
Lazaro said the government had little choice but to privatize water distribution, which had been plagued by corruption, inefficiency and a bloated bureaucracy that ultimately led to a water crisis.
Back then, water coverage only reached 63 percent of the capital region, and water ran for just 16 hours a day. Losses due to pilferage, leakage and other factors were as high as 50 percent.
The MWSS also had to run to Congress each year to secure P300 million to P500 million to cover its shortfall.
“So, I don’t understand why I hear people saying we are putting a burden on the people,” said Lazaro.
“The truth is,” he added, “the people have been given great relief when we privatized.”