"This negligence might soon be in for a sea change."
“Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.” So goes the old saying. Considering that the Philippines is an archipelagic country, that seems hard to believe. But that is the harsh reality of our water situation. In Metro Manila, it is a familiar sight where residents line up with buckets and pails for water to use at home. However, this is not drinking water but to use for flushing down toilets and watering plants.
Why not a drop to drink? Because water pipes in the city are either old, rusty and have holes that contaminate the precious liquid.
Keeping drinking water safe and pure is part of the condition in the contract signed by the water concessionaires with the government. This negligence might soon be in for a sea change.
Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza has found a strong ally in President Rodrigo Duterte against concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad. Atienza’s consistent and no letup criticism of the two companies has reached Malacañang and President Rodrigo Duterte.
Mincing no words, the President in his indomitable firebrand language warned the Ayalas that if they don’t shape up, he would cancel their contract, with government taking over water distribution. This must have shook up the company boardroom as the firm immediately offered what it claimed as an “acceptable solution for all.” But Atienza doubts the Ayalas can offer an acceptable solution.
“It will just be an attempt to to hold off losing its contract,” said Atienza who added that the concessionaires even want consumers to absorb alleged losses and slide in its profitability.
“How can the water concessionaires claim losses when they declare dividends annually to stockholders?” he asks.
This, aside from the fact the water concessionaires borrow millions of dollars in loans from the World Bank under sovereign guaranty, meaning if they default on payment it is the government that pays for the loan or the people as taxpayers.
“I salute the President with both my hands for recognizing my advocacy of this serious matter in the House of Representatives where I have been a lone voice against the water concessionaires’ poor distribution service and lack of waste water manage facility,” Atienza said. This, he said, results in water pollution and, consequently, water-borne diseases.
Atienza is pushing his resources advocacy to include putting a cap on electricity prices. This is not going to endear him to the water and electricity companies. Atienza said he does not care if the profit-oriented companies hate him as long as he fulfills his service to the people. Atienza’s mission was accorded recognition by Philippines Graphics by featuring him in its cover story.
The former secretary of Environment and Natural Resources under then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been espousing his clean and plenty of water advocacy all the way up to the Supreme Court when, under his leadership, rejected the water concessionaires’ case to pass on to consumers its claim of losses.
The water concessionaires are big businessmen and therefore know the actuarial reality of risks that come with doing business, said Atienza, who has been speaking up on the water problem in the last three Congresses.
He also asked House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano whether he’s a leader or a dealer for big business. Cayetano, if the word among House members is to be believed, might not be able to hold on to the Speakership because of his lapses in the preparations for the on-going 30th Southeast Asian Games. Among these lapses are shoddy transportation arrangements for foreign athletic delegations arriving at the Manila International Airport, screwed up hotel accommodations and bad food that did not consider halal diet for Muslim athletes.