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Malacañang eyes probe on ‘artificial’ Manila Water shortage

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, 14 March 2019 04:41 PM

Residents line up for rationed water

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday (March 14) raised the possibility that the ongoing water shortage in parts of Metro Manila and Rizal Province and supply issues being experienced by the Manila Water may be “artificial.”

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement during a press briefing Thursday, citing information that Angat Dam is not yet at a critical level.

Angat Dam is the main source of Manila Water’s supply while La Mesa dam serves as its emergency reserve.

Panelo said the information about Manila Water supply issues struck him as not true after reading reports about Maynilad’s current supply, which also gets its allocation from Angat Dam.

“Inefficiency yan, mismanagement. Eh di artificial (shortage) lang ‘yun kung ganun. If the source is puno and another concessionaire is puno also, eh ‘di bakit naman ‘yung isa, hindi [It could be just inefficiency, mismanagement. In that case, it’s only artificial shortage because the source is full and another concessionaire is also full. Why is the other one not having supply issues?],” Panelo said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

Panelo, however, clarified that the water shortage is still being investigated and Malacañang has yet to make any conclusion on the matter.

Eastern Metro Manila and parts of Rizal province has been grappling with limited to no water supply since last week after Manila Water announced it will implement adjustments in its water service operations.

Manila Water admitted on Tuesday (March 12) that aside from the effects of El Niño, delays in projects designed to boost its supply led to the water shortage in eastern Metro Manila.

READ: MWSS Chief Regulator: Rising population, no new water source caused Manila Water’s supply shortage

Senators, for their part, said on Wednesday (March 13) they are eyeing to launch an investigation into the actions being taken by the government to resolve the water shortage in the country.

READ: Senators eye probe on water shortage

When asked, Panelo assured to hold Manila Water accountable if it is at fault for the water shortage.

“Siyempre, kung sila ang may kasalanan, we’ll make sure that they will be (held) accountable [Of course, if they are at fault, we’ll make sure that they will be held accountable],” he said.

Panelo also said that the ongoing water shortage should prompt local government units to install respective water reservoirs to address any future water-related problems.

READ: Malacañang to release executive order on water shortage

Malacañang earlier said it is now drafting an Executive Order (EO) to address the ongoing water supply woes. It is expected to be released next week. – Robie de Guzman (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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Duterte to meet with MWSS execs on metro water woes

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, 19 March 2019 05:59 PM

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) officials tonight (March 19), Malacañang said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the MWSS executives may be asked to provide an update on the water supply conditions in parts of Metro Manila and Rizal province that were hit with water service interruptions for nearly two weeks now.

The meeting follows the directive of Duterte to MWSS last week to demand from Manila Water Company and Maynilad Water Services to release 150 days worth of water from Angat Dam in Bulacan.

READ: Duterte orders Manila Water, Maynilad to release Angat Dam water

On Monday (March 18), MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco and Chief Regulator Atty. Patrick Ty have faced lawmakers to explain the water crisis plaguing thousands of households in eastern Metro Manila and Rizal province.

READ: MWSS Chief Regulator: No power to punish Manila Water

Manila Water, for its part, said its water supply has improved in 90 percent of its service areas but water rationing operation may last until May or June. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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Malacañang assures transparency in PH infra deals with China

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, 19 March 2019 12:14 PM

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jinping of People’s Republic of China pose for a photo prior to their expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace on November 20, 2018. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has assured that it is ready to disclose the Philippines’ infrastructure agreements with Chinese firms to promote transparency in the bureaucracy.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the assurance on Monday (March 18) as the Duterte Economic Team heads to Beijing, China this week to tackle the Philippine government’s infrastructure projects.

“Well, that’s pursuant to transparency, yes. Why not?” Panelo said at a press briefing in Malacañang.

In a statement released on Monday (March 18), the Department of Finance announced the trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese Counterparts to discuss possible infrastructure cooperation with China for projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will lead the delegation.

The Philippine Officials are set to meet with top officials of China’s Ministry of Commerce and Vice President Wang Qishan on Tuesday (March 19) to firm up possible new cooperation deals.

“Other members of the Philippine delegation are scheduled to meet separately with officials of the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) and the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), the office in charge of reviewing and implementing Beijing’s foreign aid projects,” the DOF added in a statement.

A Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) will also be held in Beijing on
Wednesday (March 20) “to showcase to potential investors the vast opportunities available to them in the Philippines as it emerges as an economic powerhouse in the region.”

The Duterte government is reportedly planning to spend P8 trillion for its infrastructure projects. At least one-third of these proposed projects will be financed by China, including the Chico River Irrigation Project, which has been hit for its one-sided loan agreement in favor of China.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad has earlier cautioned the Philippines against borrowing huge sums of money from China.

“If you borrow huge sums from China and you cannot pay—you know when a person is a borrower, he is under the control of the lender,” Mahathir said.

United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also warned other nations in 2018 about the potential dangers of accepting Chinese investments as Beijing expands its development projects to increasingly distant corners of the world.

“When China comes calling, it’s not always to the good of your citizens,” Pompeo said at a press briefing in Mexico City after a meeting with Panamian President Juan Carlos Varela in October 2018.

Pompeo’s remarks came as Washington’s own investment agency is actively competing with China to finance infrastructure projects, particularly in Panama.

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima also called on the Duterte administration to heed warnings from Malaysia and the United States against accepting loans from China.

“This is not the first time that top leaders or experts cautioned us about our dealings with China that could unfavorably affect our country’s future, both in the aspects of financial and territorial security. We need to learn from the unfortunate fate of others who borrowed before us,” de Lima said in a statement.

Despite criticisms and appeal against the move to take out foreign loan deals, Malacañang has repeatedly assured that the country will not fall into a debt trap with China. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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MWSS Chief Regulator: No power to punish Manila Water over supply woes

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, 18 March 2019 06:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) said on Monday (March 18) that it has no power to punish the Manila Water Company, Inc. even if it violated its obligation to provide uninterrupted water services to its consumers.

“Based on the terms of concession agreement, Manila Water has violated their mandate to provide 24/7 water,” MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty said during a hearing conducted by the House Committee on Metro Manila Development on Monday.

However, Ty said the MWSS has no power to hold the water concessionaire accountable because the concessionaire agreement provides no penal provision authorizing the Regulatory office to impose any fines.

“What will happen is that we can take this up in the fifth rate rebasing, which will happen in 2022,” Ty said.

“That is why the MWSS has been repeatedly requesting Congress to petition for a Department of Water and a water regulatory commission to allow the imposing of these fines and penalties,” he added.

The MWSS chief regulator’s statement was in response to some solons’ call to penalize Manila Water over the water shortage that hit parts of Metro Manila and Rizal Province for more than a week now.

Caloocan 2nd District Edgar ‘Egay’ Erice said Manila Water should have sounded the alarm over the looming water shortage in eastern Metro Manila since the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) issued an El Niño advisory as early as January this year.

“Kung sensitive kayo sa problema ng mga consumers nyo, dapat January pa lang humingi na kayo ng tulong,” Erice admonished.

ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, on the other hand, contradicted Ty’s statement, insisting that the MWSS has the authority to punish Manila Water.

Tinio cited Section 10.4 of the Concession Agreement between the MWSS and Manila Water Company, Inc. which states that “failure by the concessionaire meet any service obligation which continues for more than 60 days (or 15 days in cases where the failure could adversely affect public health or welfare) after written notice thereof from the Regulatory Office to the Concessionaire shall constitute a basis for the Regulatory Office to assess financial penalties against the concessionaires.”

“The amount of such penalty shall be equal to 25% of the costs that, in the reasonable opinion of the Regulatory Office, the concessionaire will incur in order to meet the service obligation in question; provided, however, that if the Concessionaire does not meet such service obligation within 180 days, the amount of the penalty shall be equal to 50% of such costs,” the contract read.

“Napakalinaw po ng sinasabi dito (kontrata). Ang sabi n’ya (Ty) kailangan pa tayo maghintay ng rebasing ng kanilang rate in five years bago masingil ‘yung penalty. Napakalinaw dito na after 15 days, kung di pa nila maayos, pwede na kayo mag-impose ng penalty,” Tinio said.

“We will revisit that again,” Ty said in response to Tinio’s prodding, arguing that the penalty could apply on the next rate rebasing in 2022.

To address the issue, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said there might be a need for a new law that would give more authority to MWSS to punish erring concessionaires.

“Perhaps in the law, we have to add a penalty for those who failed to comply with some parts of the concession agreement,” Arroyo said.

Manila Water President Ferdinand dela Cruz, meanwhile, expressed willingness to face penalties and all the responsibility for the ongoing water shortage in eastern Metro Manila.

“Whatever the accountability for this issue takes me as President of Manila Water, I am willing to take that accountability,” he said.

Cruz also assured that consumers hit with water interruptions will soon find relief as their water supply continues to increase.

However, he said the water supply is expected to go back to normal by the month of May. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Grace Casin)

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