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Atienza’s war on water firms

"Corporate greed exemplified, he says."



Like a man consumed by his own mission to wage war against corporate greed, Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza is relentless in his campaign to make the water company concessionaires comply with the Clean Water Act. This, after one major newspaper banner headlined his case against concessionaire Manila Water while the other dailies also ran the story on their front pages.

Atienza is aghast that instead of complying with the Supreme Court order to implement the clean sewage component in their contract as concessionaires, Manila Water is now threatening consumers with higher rates.

“This is the height of arrogance if not downright insensitivity,” fumed Atienza, suggesting that the high court cite Manila Water in contempt and double its P1.8-billion fine for attempting to pass on their fine to consumers.

“To increase its rates by 780 percent is corporate greed exemplified,” said Atienza. Neglect to separate toxic and chemical waste from water sewage is harming the environment as he pointed out the fishkill in Las Pinas and Paranaque.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources officials who inspected the dead fish washed ashore said the cause was not dynamite fishing but plain and pure pollution..

“Manila Bay is now one big cesspool,” said Atienza, adding that no amount of cleanup will turn the tide around and restore it to its former pristine condition.

Atienza said Manila Water has the funds to connect pipes to a water treatment facility. It did not do this. And yet the Ayalas who operate Manila Water have the funds for their other business ventures like condominiums and shopping malls. If operating a concessionaire and distributing water to thousands of households is not profitable, then they should get out of it, Atienza said, urging the government to cancel the water concessionaires’ contracts and take over their operation. He said that water a natural resource should never be privatized and given to big business whose sole priority is profit.

The former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary under then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo vowed to pursue his case against Manila Water when Congress resumes its session in November. He found an ally in Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who is now espousing the cause for a water treatment facility.

Atienza also said Manila Water has been collecting money from consumers and business establishments for wastewater treatment for the past 22 years aside from the regular fees for water consumption. Manila Water had enough time to construct a waste water treatment facility as stipulated in its concessionaire contract—but did not. Why?

So, where did that water treatment money go? Probably to other Ayala projects with a faster return on investment. We hope not, because that would be to the detriment of its actual purpose for a wastewater treatment facility, which is for the good of communities nationwide. What is happening now is that both Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay have become big receptacles for toxic waste and other garbage that result in fishkill and other diseases that take their toll on the people. Is it any wonder that polio is back after an absence of three decades, with dengue and the African Swine Fever adding to the people’s problems?

Indeed, one business company’s neglect is the whole country’s misery. Thankfully, we have legislators like Lito Atienza looking after our welfare. May his and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s tribe increase.

Topics: Alejandro del Rosario , Rep. Lito Atienza , Clean Water Act , Manila Water , Supreme Court
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