Lawmakers call for refund after Manila Water shortage

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the water shortage in Metro Manila and Rizal, some lawmakers asked Manila Water whether the company is open to giving consumers a refund.

This was raised in a hearing of the House committee on Metro Manila development on Monday, March 18, tackling the water crisis.

"Are you willing to refund to the consumers? As part of your responsibility, are you willing to refund? Malinaw na talo sila dito (It's clear that the people are on the losing end here)," said Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate.

Manila Water chief executive officer Ferdinand dela Cruz was not able to give a categorical answer to the proposal.

He said he will look into the possibility, but the company’s priority at the moment is to restore water supply to affected areas.

Dela Cruz also said he is taking full responsibility for the crisis.

"I am prepared to resign for failing the customers, but my focus right now, your honor, is to restore the service even if it's a slow process," he said.

With Dela Cruz's indefinite answer, legislators then turned to the state-run Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and asked whether Manila Water would be penalized for the supply shortage.

MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty initially said the agency does not have the power to impose fines, but later on clarified that the concession agreement has provisions to penalize Manila Water.

Ty said the MWSS cannot give a definite amount at the moment, as regulators would need to consider the incurred costs of Manila Water.

The MWSS would then assess which costs from activities, such as trucking of water, would not be allowed to be passed on to consumers in the next base rebasing.

The Ayala-led Manila Water earned P6.5 billion in 2018 on the back of steady performance in the Manila concession area.

Dela Cruz said around 80% of customers in the East Zone of Metro Manila now have their water supply restored. Water pressure is expected to improve within the coming weeks. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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