Press Release
March 19, 2019

Poe wants rebate for consumers, compensation for barangays affected by water crisis

Sen. Grace Poe is recommending a refund for consumers and pushing for compensation for local government units that experienced Metro Manila's worst water crisis in recent years.

In an interview after she led a Senate inquiry on water supply shortage in the capital and parts of Rizal province on Tuesday, March 19, Poe supported calls by her fellow senators to demand an immediate refund and impose penalties against Manila Water for failure to deliver water 24/7.

"Imposibleng walang kompensasyon sa konsumer dahil tayo'y nangungunsumi sa ngayon. Pati ang local government ang laki na ng gastos nila... para mabigyan sila ng suporta habang walang tubig," Poe, chair of the public services committee, said.

Poe added the private concessionaire may even consider a "two-month amnesty" on water bills as large swaths of the capital suffered from unannounced water shortage that earned the anger and frustration of residents.

In Mandaluyong City, one of the hardest hit areas, people are lining up for water rations, with some chasing and even blocking firetrucks for them just to get water, said Carlito Cernal, barangay chairman of Addition Hills, the city's largest barangay that still has no water up to now.

Mandaluyong Mayor Carmelita "Menchie" Abalos said water supply in the city is not yet normal as three out of 27 barangays are still without water.

"In the meantime, ang pwedeng gawin ng Manila Water ay tulungan ang mga barangay na hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring tubig. Dalas-dalasan nila ang pagdala ng water tanks," said Poe.

At the hearing, Ferdinand dela Cruz, Manila Water's chief executive officer, said he has instructed the firm to explore ways to provide "some relief in water bills of affected constituents during the period of the service interruption."

"We will discuss it with the regulators and we will update this committee on this initiative," the executive said.

Their customers, however, could still wait longer for water supply to normalize until June, Manila Water admitted to senators.

"Our nine percent supply deficit will go down to 4.5 percent in April and 1.5 percent in May... before getting totally eliminated in June," Dela Cruz added.

Senators pressed the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) if it could impose fines against Manila Water after the industry regulator earlier told House leaders that it was powerless to seek compensation on the widespread water interruptions although the concessionaire committed violations.

With hesitation, MWSS chief regulator Patrick Ty said "we checked the law [but] there's no penal provision to impose fines. The penalties that we do is to disallow expenses and do this during the rate rebasing that is being done once every five years."

But senators expressed misgivings about Ty's assertion, saying nowhere in the concession agreement indicates that the penalties could be meted only during the rate rebasing.

"Puwede po magkaroon ng rebate subject to the proper process, dahil sa water shortage, even before the next rate rebasing in 2022," said Ty, adding they will come up with a decision by June or July.

For Poe, the decision and amount of penalty that Manila Water faces should come out anytime soon.

"Para sa akin, as soon as possible... sana mas mabilis," Poe added.

Poe also supported a proposal by Sen. Panfilo Lacson to defer the charging of fees by Manila Water for its water treatment facility located in Cardona, Rizal that has yet to become operational and is partly being blamed for the shortage.

Ty confirmed Manila Water has started collecting for the Cardona treatment plant although there was delay and it has not been fully operational. Dela Cruz said they started collecting in 2015 "when the new rates were given to us."

Asked if the water industry regulator was also remiss, Poe said: "Talagang may pagkukulang dahil bakit ngayon lang... Sa tingin ko hindi din nila ginagawa ang trabaho nila. Alam mo, ang nakakalungkot dito, malaki ang naging pagkukulang ng Manila Water, pero sa tingin ko, mas malaki ang pagkukulang ng MWSS," Poe asserted.

She said MWSS should hire competent professionals and a certified civil engineer as required by law.

"The composition has to be according to how that law was actually intended. Dapat talaga mayroong engineer doon, a technical expert who understands the situation because if they are all lawyers, wala silang gagawin kundi mga ligal na bagay lang pero hindi mga teknikal na makaka-apekto sa daloy ng tubig. Malaki ang pagkukulang ng MWSS dahil hindi nila nakita ito," she said.

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