Speaking out for the first time on the water service interruptions suffered by 1.2 million Metro Manila households, tycoons Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and his brother Fernando took responsibility for the shortcomings of their company, Manila Water, and vowed to restore services and to prevent a recurrence of the shortage.
“A multitude of factors resulted in this lack of supply, and we take responsibility for our own shortcomings in the company. We recognize and understand the difficulties that all our customers are going through,” the Zobels said in a statement.
The shortage affected Metro Manila’s east zone, but not it's west zone, which is served by another private concessionaire, Maynilad.
On Tuesday, Manila Water said it would suspend the minimum charge for all customers affected by the service interruptions and waive fees for the whole of March for those that did not have water for seven days straight.
The Zobels said Manila Water has restored supply to 97 percent of its customers with a supply good for eight to 12 hours a day.
Under its concession agreement with the government, however, Manila Water must provide 24/7 water service to its customers with a minimum level of water pressure.
“Please be assured that Manila Water is exploring all possible options to bring back services to the high levels that we are all accustomed to,” the Zobels said. “We continue to appeal for everyone’s patience as our teams at Manila Water are working hard and overtime to immediately and comprehensively remedy the situation. Resolving this situation requires support from all sectors.”
“We will double our efforts to restore services to the high levels that we have had and to ensure that future shortages such as these will not be repeated. We are deeply grateful for your understanding,” the Zobels said.
Senators Grace Poe and Panfilo Lacson said the waiver of fees was not enough.
“Of course this is not enough,” said Poe, chairman of the Senate public services committee. She said the waiver of fees would not be enough to compensate for the suffering experienced by more than a million people over the last two weeks.
“The biggest improvement that they can give the public is a good service. They should find a way to give their consumers enough supply of water. But there should really be a refund or no water bill in areas which lost water supply,” she said.
Lacson said Manila Water needs to give more or give back to is consumers. He recalled during the recent Senate public services committee hearing on the water crisis in Metro Manila and nearby
areas, they talked about charging their customers for the Cardona treatment plant even before it was built.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said data obtained from the Department of Health showed that six public hospitals suffered total losses of P 4.116 million as a result of the water crisis.
“In the same spirit and under the same principle that guided it in waiving its water fees as a form of compensation to consumers, Manila Water should immediately reimburse the public hospitals and
compensate them for the public health risks their patients were exposed to because of the water crisis. It must make good on its promise to compensate all those who were severely affected by the water crisis and help restore consumer trust and confidence,” Hontiveros said.
During the Senate’s hearing on the water shortage, officials from the Rizal Medical Center said that they spent about P100,000 for the emergency procurement of water containers, about P50,000 for bottled water and P260,000 for an upgraded pump for the hospital’s cistern.
The RMC said that it also spent for the fuel that fire trucks used to pump the water supply.
READ: Manila Water announces voluntary March bill waiver for customersREAD: Ayala water firm draws militants ireREAD: Manila Water waives charges; penalty for service cuts up
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