"Imagine the hardship of people who have to line up for this basic service."
The Philippines is an archipelagic nation with water all around. There is a 144-billion-cubic-meter supply but only about 40 percent is consumed. The rest is wasted.
These facts and figures were provided by Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza who had access to this information when he was secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. This is also the reason he said he would file a resolution in the House urging President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel the concessionaire contracts of Maynilad and Manila Water and return this service to the government.
In an interview over coffee, an incensed Atienza punned that if the problem of water is too big for business barons Ayalas and Pangilinan to solve, then they should give it up and let government do it.
“It is outrageous that Maynilad and Manila Water are asking for rate increases when both should be refunding consumers for non-delivery of this basic need of the Filipino people. Business tycoons Manny V. Pangilinan and the Ayalas of Manila Water are just raking in the profits without doing their part for delivery and sewage management services.”
Atienza added that these two big companies are collecting sewage management fees from business establishments and ordinary residential consumers, but do not use them for the purpose of delivering clean, potable water. He said it was the MMDA, the City of Manila and the DENR which cleaned up the polluted Manila Bay waters. He said the two companies borrowed funds from the World Bank under sovereign guarantee for sewage management. If they default, it would be the Philippine government which will have to pay for loan default.
Where will the government get the money to pay the World Bank? From us—the people—in the form of new taxes, Atienza pointed out.
Atienza said he is not afraid of retaliation from the business tycoons as he had always been the lone voice in the House speaking up on this issue. What can they do against me ? Turn off the water from my faucet? Then they will have do that to the whole neighborhood and have more angry people up in arms, he said in answer to his own question.
No, he is not affected by the water shortage but he said in he cannot, in conscience, not feel the hardships of the people particularly in depressed areas where they have to line up to fill drums and buckets to have water for daily use.
What are the alternative sources of water supply considering the water at Angat Dam has gone down to its lowest critical level level in 14 years? The sporadic rain in recent days failed to augment water at Angat Dam and the prospect of more rain during El Niño season looks dim with rationing lasting up to August.
Laguna de Bay, if cleared of algae from those fish pens of the rich and powerful, could be a potential source of water. But government must have the political will to dismantle those fish pens as we have enough fish in the West Philippine Sea to feed our people, Atienza said.
The obstacle to fishing in the West Philippine Sea is the presence of larger Chinese fishing boats, one of which rammed a Filipino and abandoned 22 of its crew men. With the President announcing he would let the Chinese fish in our exclusive 200 mile economic zone, Filipino fishermen know that their fishing haul would not be as plenty as the Chinese who use trawlers.
This, of course will jack up the price of fish in the market with the price of other food commodities already high for local consumers. The only good news last week was the resignation of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.