By Jovee Marie de la Cruz, June 25 2019; Business Mirror
Image Credit to ABS-CBN News
A party-list lawmaker on Monday said the 18th Congress would work for the passage of a measure declaring water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad as “public utilities.”
Recalling on how the water crisis in the early 1990s led to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System’s privatization and the subsequent entry of the two water concessionaires in Metro Manila, Bagong Henerasyon partylist Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said it is again time to amend the MWSS charter, and this time, explicitly define water concessionaires as public utilities.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, meanwhile, has called for an oversight hearing on Tuesday (today) at 10 a.m. on the prevailing water shortage in Metro Manila.
Invited to the hearing are officials from the MWSS, National Water Resources Bureau (NWRB), Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), National Irrigation Authority (NIA), Departments of Agriculture, Budget and Management, Environment and Natural Resources and Public Works and Highways, Neda and water concessionaires Manila Water Co. Inc., and the Maynilad Water Services Inc., among others.
Moreover, Herrera-Dy said, a public utility status for the water concessionaires will limit their prerogative to adjust rates they collect to their customers.
In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives has approved House Bill 5828, or an act providing for the definition of public utility, amending for the purpose Commonwealth Act of 146. However, the Senate failed to approve the measure.
The bill provides a clear definition of public utility that covers three sectors: distribution of electricity system, transmission of electricity system and water pipeline distribution system or sewerage pipeline system.
Also, Herrera-Dy, secretary-general of the Party-list Coalition said, making Metro Manila residents suffer through a second round of water service cut offs merits tougher rebuke and deeper probe by Congress.
“We have given MWSS and the electricity sector enough time to solve the persistent problems with their public-utility services,” said Herrera-Dy.
“It is now time to clean up the mess and among the areas we shall focus on is declaring the water concessionaires as public utilities,” she added.
After the 18th Congress convenes on July 22, the lawmaker said the lower chamber would resume investigations on the water services as well as electricity services in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
Herrera-Dy also said that “since the regulators have either been slow or inept, or both, at doing their job, we shall file a bill that will prescribe details of their regulatory powers.”
“Public utility declaration for water concessionaires has long been overdue,” she said.
“Brownouts in many provinces is an almost daily burden. Mindoro, Panay Island, the Bicol Region and other parts of the country suffer long brownouts and high electricity costs,” Herrera-Dy added.
Meanwhile, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said, a “government, that could not even secure the basic water needs of its people, is an epic failure.”
He said the Duterte administration should carry out a thorough evaluation of the private concessionaries’ infrastructure, amid the firms’s habitual justification of low water levels of its sources for the shortages.
“This should also serve as basis for a possible amendment on their respective concession agreements,” he said.
“It is a highest feat of immorality that these concessionaires rake up super profits amid its clients’s distress. The quality of their service should be proportionate of their profits,” he added.