"The water companies should be made accountable for their inadequate service."
With the relentless efforts of Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza, Congress just might grant President Rodrigo Duterte power to take over public water utilities.
This development came in the wake of more water service interruption by concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad.
Atienza, who is unrelenting in his campaign against the water utilities’ neglect since he was Environment secretary in 1997, was able to get President Duterte to act on the people’s complaint of poor water distribution.
The lawmaker has been very vocal about making the water utilities accountable for their inadequate service despite huge amounts of funds being collected from resident consumers and business establishments for a water treatment facility.
“If these public utilities were implementing a wastewater treatment facility, we could have been already availing of alternate sources in Manila and Laguna de Bay,” said Atienza, pointing out that the water level supply of the precious liquid continues to go lower in La Mesa Dam.
He thanked President Duterte for acting on his longtime advocacy of an efficient water distribution system. Atienza also wants the water concessionaires to account for the money they have been collecting from consumers and funds borrowed from foreign institutions under a Philippine government sovereign guarantee. He pointed out that the water concessionaires are easily able to secure these loans under the universal clean environment and climate change principles.
Water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water so far have not responded to Atienza’s call for accountability. What he noticed is that leftist militants are now also picking up his advocacy. He said that given the Left’s communist ideology, the demand for better water service might assume a tainted public perception.
Are the water utilities letting the Left speak up on the issue given their questionable credibility? Why don’t they respond instead to relevant issues raised by Atienza who said that “in my case I don’t have any ideology except to serve the people.”
Indeed, Atienza, according to many supporters, should aspire for higher office. But the Buhay Party-List congressman does not want to see any agenda attributed to his advocacy. He said such aspiration for higher office will be up to the people to decide at the right time.
Meanwhile, the Manny Pangilinan-owned Maynilad Water Services reiterated its support for the government Kaliwa Dam project, saying it is a viable long term solution to augmenting Metro Manila’s water supply shortage. There have been calls to stop the project by indigenous tribes in Quezon and Rizal. They claim that the project in their ancestral domain would destroy their livelihood. The P18.7-billion project is funded by China as a result of Duterte’s official visits to Beijing.
But will the Kaliwa Dam serve the poor and Metro Manila residents or will it simply fill the pockets of businessmen operating the two water utilities?
Atienza has his doubts about big business giving priority to its consumers which is why he is strongly for government to take over the water utilities. With many of the House members realizing Atienza’s advocacy, Congress might just grant the President the power to cancel the concessionaires contract and take over their operations.
Atienza does not consider this as his victory but a win for the people who have suffered long from the poor and costly water services of the water utilities.
“The government has been pushing for the project but we have been working with them in the process of developing the raw water sources because we understand the urgency of meeting Metro Manila’s water needs,” said a Maynilad statement. The statement added that as a water distributor, the company can only distribute water volume from the raw water source.
Maynilad stated that it had been doing its part in implementing the necessary infrastructure to meet the requirements of a growing population in the Metro area. Maynilad said it is maximizing the limited supply so it can mitigate the impact of the current low level of the Angat Dam water.