Palace sets meet on water shortage

President Rodrigo Duterte was to meet with the officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System in Malacañang Tuesday night to discuss the water shortage in Metro Manila, the Palace confirmed.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President will be following up his previous directive to the regulator of the two water concessionaires.

Panelo said he only learned of the meeting on the day itself.

“I don’t know if they were called. I just saw it in his schedule,” Panelo said.

He said he didn’t know if officials from the Manila Water Company Inc., responsible for service interruptions in Metro Manila’s east zone, would be present at the meeting.

The meeting came four days after Duterte ordered the MWSS to release water from the Angat Dam to solve the water shortage.

As 1.2-million households suffered water service interruptions and two cities were on the verge of declaring a state of calamity, Duterte demanded that the concessionaires supply water to their customers “good for 150 days.”

The Palace has blamed mismanagement for the water supply problems, but Manila Water has blamed the dropping of water levels at La Mesa Dam.

In a Palace briefing Tuesday, Panelos said 90 percent of water service has been restored in the affected cities following Duterte’s order. He also added that the water supply would be back to normal in the following days.

MWSS regulator Patrick Ty on Tuesday told a Senate hearing Manila Water could face penalties by June or July for failing to deliver water to its franchise area.

Although penalties in the form of rebates to customers are usually taken up during rate adjustments every five years, Ty said they would not have to wait until then to impose penalties for the “unprecedented” loss of water service.

“We do not need to wait because of this unprecedented situation. We are studying it right now, we are also actually studying the amount of the penalty that will be imposed, which can be rebated,” Ty said.

The priority, he said, was to fix the supply, then give Manila Water due process.

Manila Water consumers can expect lower bills next month as a result of the service interruption, he said.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, meanwhile, called for accountability on the part of Manila Water.

“This water shortage has caused more than just inconvenience and stress to Filipinos. Apart from disrupting our daily way of life, it has also affected productivity as many people could not go to work, school, or manage their business. Many businesses had to shut down or limit operations. Services were also disrupted. The economic impact of this shortage cannot be swept under the rug,” the group said.

On Monday, at the House hearing on the issue, Manila Water apologized for the shortage, nearly two weeks since its La Mesa reserve breached the critical level, triggering service interruptions.

“We sincerely hope that there will be some form of reckoning for this issue,” the PCCI said. It’s too important and critical to our people’s well-being and our economy. Moving forward, government has to make sure that there will be policies in place to first, prevent this from happening again, and second, to identify penalties for those responsible.”

“We believe that a true socially responsible company with high corporate governance standards will be sincere in their efforts to rectify the situation and will not skirt or avoid responsibility,” it added.

The chamber cited the government for its quick response to demand the release of water from Angat Dam to all affected areas.

Manila Water on Tuesday said it is targeting to reach 99 percent water availability in its service coverage area with ground-floor level standard by the end of March.

During a Senate hearing on the water shortage affecting parts of Metro Manila, Manila Water president and chief executive officer Ferdinand dela Cruz said their consumers have about 90 percent water availability at the ground floor level from a low water availability of 70 percent since the supply shortage occurred.

“Our target is by the end of this month is to reach 99 percent of our coverage area using this ground floor level standard so that we could spread our limited supply,” Dela Cruz said.

Dela Cruz said that the 9-percent supply deficit, or about 150 million liters per day since March 6, was due to the La Mesa Dam breaching the critical level of 69 meters.

Dela Cruz said the company is implementing some solutions to plug the supply deficit, such as the reactivation of the Cardona, Rizal water treatment plant project, commissioning of deep wells, development of new deep well sources, the Maynilad-Manila Water supply sharing arrangement, and updating its existing water supply master plan.

Dela Cruz said he expects to totally eliminate the supply deficit and normalize water services by June.

“With these efforts, our 9-percent supply deficit will go down to 4.5 percent in April and further go down to 1.5-percent supply deficit in May before getting totally eliminated in June,” dela Cruz said.

He apologized to the consumers for the inconvenience and took full responsibility for the water shortage, noting that he is prepared to resign from his post.

“I am seeking their forgiveness, from your constituents, and I’m holding myself fully accountable for the sudden drop in our 24/7 service level to your constituents whom we have consistently served well over the past 21 years with 24/7 water availability and sufficient water pressure,” he said.

“If my resignation today will not only erase our supply deficit but would also result in a united front to urgently build new water resources then I would be extremely happy to resign at this moment,” he added.

The Trade department, meanwhile, announced that prices of bottled water remain the same, despite the shortage in some parts of Metro Manila.

The Consumer Protection Group announced this after after a dailogue with members of the Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines Monday regarding the prices and supply of bottled water amidst the ongoing water shortage situation in the country.

Trade Undersecretary and CPG head Ruth Castelo said they would also monitor the pricing of water containers, as these have gone up during the shortage.

READ: Water shortage probe begins

READ: Arroyo seeks to penalize erring water companies

READ: Rody orders release of water from Angat

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System , water shortage , Salvador Panelo
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