Manila Water to work closely with gov’t for ‘acceptable scheme’ on arbitral award

Robie de Guzman   •   December 4, 2019   •   573

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Water Co. Inc. on Wednesday said it is willing to work with the present administration to come up with a ‘workable solution’ to the recent arbitration decision which ordered the Philippine government to pay the water firm a P7.4 billion compensation.

In a statement, the Manila Water said the compensation order, which was issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, was for acts in breach of the procedure committed by officials of the previous administration, not the Duterte administration.

The water firm made the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night slammed the water concessionaires in Metro Manila for supposedly ‘onerous’ water concession deals.

Duterte said the government was being “milked by billions” after the arbitration court demanded the state to pay Manila Water P7.5-billion, and another P3.4-billion to Maynilad Water Service for losses or damages they suffered due to rejected petitions for a rate hike.

“We wish to reiterate that Manila Water is more than willing and have started to work with the incumbent administration to come up with a workable solution to the arbitration decision,” the Manila Water said.

The water concessionaire, which serves the east zone of Metro Manila, said that before the arbitration ruling was made public, the company’s executives met with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to seek guidance, and to come up with a “mutually acceptable manner” of the award’s implementation.

The firm said this is because the case was filed due to a violation incurred by the previous administrations.

“Secretary Dominguez acknowledged our proposal to work very closely with his office to find a mutually acceptable scheme to address the award,” it said.

The utility firm stated that in 1997, it entered into a concession agreement with the Philippine government when the administration of then-President Fidel V. Ramos offered the Metro Manila concession to the private sector.

The Manila Water said it forged a deal with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to address the water crisis being felt then in Metro Manila, which they said existed due to the agency’s “incapability to maintain viable operations due to technical inefficiencies and enormous financial debt.”

“The Government unilaterally determined the terms of the agreements, which were bidden out on a take it or leave it basis,” it said.

Manila Water was one of many local and international corporations that responded to the Government’s call for a public-private partnership to solve the water crisis.

It offered the lowest fee to serve as a concessionaire of MWSS, which decided to pay the fee with the water tariff to be collected by the concessionaire. Manila Water was subsequently awarded the Concession Agreement for the East Zone, the firm said.

“Manila Water has diligently discharged its obligations as concessionaire of MWSS, spending over Php 166 billion to improve water and wastewater services,” it said.

“We have installed over 5,500 kilometers of pipes and built 2 new filter plants, 32 new reservoirs, 113 pumping and booster stations, 40 additional wastewater treatment facilities and five times more sewer network capacity to improve the MWSS facilities in the East Zone,” it added.

The firm said this resulted in the expansion of water service coverage in the East Zone from 67% coverage serving around three million people to 93% coverage serving over seven million people.

“This includes an additional two million customers from the poor and marginalized sector, who used to buy vended water in buckets or pails delivered by vendors in pushcarts,” it said.

“Manila Water services allowed them to save about 90% of what they used to pay for water. We also reduced water losses from 63% to less than 12%, saving 700 million liters per day of water,” it added. 

The water concessionaire also explained why its contract contained a provision for the adjustment of water rates.

“Because MWSS decided to pay our services and reimburse our costs with the water tariff that we collect, the Concession Agreement contains a procedure for the adjustment of water rates in accordance with the MWSS Charter,” it said.

“The Republic of the Philippines undertook to respect the procedure, which is under the full control of MWSS from beginning to end,” it added.

In 2009, the Manila Water said its contract was extended to 2037 after the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recognized the compelling need for more water and wastewater investments.

Manila Water continues implementation of rotational water service interruption through dry season

Maris Federez   •   February 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — More than one million Manila Water customers will be affected by the rotational water service interruption that the water concessionaire started on Thursday (Feb. 20).

Manila Water said this is due to the low water allocation, as well as its preparation for the dry season.

“So, ineexpect natin na bababa nang husto ang level ng dam. So, this early, kailangan paghandaan natin ‘yon para ‘yong limitadong supply na nakukuha natin sa Angat Dam na siyang nagsu-supply ng 96, 97 percent ng tubig para sa Metro Manila, mas ma-manage natin ng mabuti at nang tayo ay makatawid ngayong summer hanggang sa bago dumating uli ‘yong tag-ulan,” Manila Water Spokesperson Jeric Sevilla said.

In January, the water company started lowering the pressure of the water distributed to households in Metro Manila and Rizal province. This is done in off-peak hours or from 10 in the evening to 6 in the morning.

“While ‘yung interruption na binanggit natin is about 4 to 10 hours. In reality, mas maikli dahil nga madaling araw lang natin gagawin. So, generally, mga 11 to about 3 to 4 in the morning lang ito kung saan hindi nila mararamdaman,” Sevilla said.

He added that the schedule and the affected areas of the water service interruption can be found on the company’s Facebook page.

Manila Water added that the rotational water service interruption will continue as long as the water allocation by the National Water Resources Board is still below normal.

For the past several months, the water allocated to Manila Water is just 42 cubic meters per second —much lower than the normal allocation of 46 cubic meters per second.

As of 8:00 AM on Friday, the water level in Angat dam was at 202.48 meters.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the rain brought by the Northeast Monsoon or Amihan contributed to the rise of the water level in Angat.

To date, Metro Manila will still have a reduced water allocation.

The NWRB said the board will still have to discuss how much water will be allocated in Metro Manila in the coming months. — (from the report of Asher Cadapan, Jr.) /mbmf

Lacson backs gov’t move to block release of P80-B congressional realignments

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2020

Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday revealed that at least P80 billion in congressional realignments have been withheld by President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

In a statement, Lacson said some lawmakers tried to realign at least P80 billion from the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program to their districts’ “pet projects” under the P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget.

But instead of exercising his veto power over the line items which could stall the approval of the budget, the lawmaker said Duterte decided to just block the release of the budget by way of a DBM circular now called “for later release,” which has the same effect of a veto.

“I support the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Budget and Management to withhold the release of these congressional realignments,” he said.

“This is one reason why I continue to support the leadership of President Duterte in spite of some disagreements with him over some policy issues: He has time and again displayed the strong political will, even against many self-proclaimed allies in Congress whose loyalty clearly lies where the money lies,” he added.

Lacson advised the president to “always be wary of these so-called allies” who have the propensity to praise him to high heavens and never criticize him but with self-aggrandizement and greed as their only motivation and nothing else.

The House of Representatives has yet to issue a comment on Lacson’s claim. – RRD (with details form Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

It’s more fun in the Philippines: Duterte invites Filipinos to visit local tourism sites amid Covid-19 fears

Robie de Guzman   •   February 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has called on Filipinos to visit local tourism sites amid fears of international travel and restrictions due to the threat of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a taped message posted on social media, Duterte urged the public to help boost local tourism by visiting the country’s scenic spots and discovering other awe-inspiring hidden gem attractions.

“To my fellow Filipinos, I encourage you to travel with me around the Philippines. I assure you that everything is safe in our country, be it an issue of health, be it an issue of law and order and be it an issue of accessibility,” the President said.

“Come with me and be my travel companion. I’ll be traveling around the Philippines. Pasyal tayo dito sa atin. Unahin natin ‘yung atin. Mabuhay ang Pilipino. Mabuhay ang turismo ng Pilipinas,” he added.

The chief executive issued the call after the tourism sector reported at least P10 billion in revenue losses due to an entry ban on travelers to and from China, the country’s largest tourism market, after it was hit by coronavirus outbreak.

Duterte said local airline companies and hotel operators have agreed to offer discounted rates to counter the negative effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, and to promote the country’s tourism sector to local tourists.

“Maraming magagandang mapuntahan sa Pilipinas, wala kayong dapat alalahanin,” he said.

The Philippines has imposed an entry ban on foreigners who travelled from China, Hong Kong and Macau within 14 days in an effort to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus strain. It later expanded the ban’s coverage to include Taiwan.

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