Manila Water said Friday it is studying a government proposal that it did not charge its customers in Metro Manila and Rizal province who have suffered service interruptions for more than two weeks now.
In an interview with the GMA news network, Manila Water president and chief executive Ferdinand dela Cruz said they would meet with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System on Monday to discuss the proposal.
“I have given instructions to my team to look into this matter seriously. That’s why we are studying it carefully, and we will discuss the results with chief regulator Patrick Ty on Monday,” Dela Cruz said in a mix of English and Filipino.
He acknowledged the call for rebates was strong from its customers, particularly those who have suffered the loss of water service for more than 24 hours or a few days, which he said “is quite not normal.”
On Thursday, the MWSS said it would convince Manila Water not to charge its 6.8 million customers until services return to normal.
The MWSS, meanwhile, said it is confident that it can solve the water crisis, after President Rodrigo Duterte told its administrator, Reynaldo Velasco, to “shape up or ship out.”
“We can deliver as far as I know. But if we fall short, who are we? That is the call of the President,” he told the GMA news network.
On Tuesday night, the President met with MWSS officials and executives from the two private concessionaires and berated them for failing to anticipate the water shortage and doing something about it.
He threatened to fire the MWSS officials and terminate the contracts of the concessionaires, which end in 2037. Their concession agreement, however, allows the President to terminate their contracts if essential water and sewerage services are jeopardized.
Manila Water on Friday said water supply has been restored to 96 percent of its customers in the east concession zone.
“Water from the tap is now available to 96 percent of Manila Water’s customer base compared to 80 percent last week with water supply available from 8 to 12 hours, at least at the ground floor level of their residences,” the water service provider said.
“Manila Water has significantly improved water services when it began adopting a rotational water supply scheme for all its customer on March 14 allowing the 28 reservoirs to recover and refill,” it added.
Macapagal Arroyo lauded the MWSS, Manila Water, Maynilad and local government officials for working together to solve the problem in the area.
On Friday, water started to flow, albeit with interruptions, in Addition Hills after more two weeks of no water. The MWSS and the Manila Water have installed faucets to distribute water in the area during service interruptions.
The MWSS also installed six 10,000-gallon tankers around Addition Hills to supply additional water.
Velasco said they have installed similar water tanks in 11 barangays in the East Zone that are still experiencing water interruptions.
Arroyo said if water service is restored, there would no longer be any need for hearings in Congress.
Also on Friday, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said there must be wide-ranging reforms in the water sector to ensure the availability across the country at all times.
“The problem brings to light the urgent need to put in place an integrated water resource master plan for water security,” Angara said.
“With the dry spell getting severe each year, climate change and increasing population, it is imperative that we secure all available and accessible water resources,” he said.
Residents of Metro Manila and Rizal have been grappling with water service interruptions since March 6, with officials from government and private concessionaires unable to provide convincing explanations for the service interruptions.
They also failed to present a master plan to deal with the shortage.
“Every year the country struggles with severe El Niño events. Every year our water dams drop to critical levels. Unless we address these and come up with long-term and integrated solutions, we are all in trouble,” Angara said.
Meanwhile, the environmentalist group Ecowaste Coalition urged candidates and political parties to enlighten voters on their positions regarding the water shortage and the steps they would take if elected to ensure people’s access to clean water.
The group’s plea for “water champions” coincided with the observance of World Water Day on Friday, which focuses on Sustainable Development Goal 6, which is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”