MANILA, Philippines – Otso Diretso candidates slammed what they said was the government's lack of preparation for the ongoing water shortage in parts of Metro Manila and Rizal, citing the need for an overarching strategy for the country's water supply.
On Tuesday, March 12, opposition senatorial bets Chel Diokno, Samira Gutoc, and Romy Macalintal held a dialogue with residents of Barangay Addition Hills, a part of Mandaluyong City affected by Manila Water's service interruptions.
A young boy told the candidates he had trouble taking a bath that morning due to lack of water, then asked them what can be done to address the water shortage. The Otso Diretso bets were also asked the same question during an interview with media after the dialogue.
"I feel sad. Masyado akong nasaktan na 'di tayo preparado. Mas ano pa tayo sa [Oplan] Tokhang. Tinokhang mo naman ang tubig. You killed [them] by not preparing for [the] water crisis," Gutoc, a civic leader from Marawi City, told reporters.
(I feel sad. I am pained that we are unprepared. We are more ready for Oplan Tokhang. Now you go after water. You killed them by not preparing for the water crisis.)
"Eh bakit ang issue 'nyo po eh i-renew ang drug war? [Dapat] i-renew ang pangangailangan sa pagkain at tubig.... Can you imagine mga [residente] natin nag-a-apply ng trabaho, walang [tubig], paano? Eh 'yung mga bata, mag-aaral? Inexcusable eh na 'di tayo preparado sa mga ganitong water crisis," she added.
(Why is their issue all about renewing the drug war? [They should] renew the response to the needs for food and water.... Can you imagine our residents who are applying for work and do not have water? How about the children who need to go to school? It's inexcusable that we are unprepared for this water crisis.)
The Ayala-led Manila Water has been drawing flak for cutting or reducing the water supply in parts of Metro Manila and Rizal since last week. Consumers said they were not given time to prepare.
For Diokno, the government should have been more proactive in helping residents who lost their water supply.
"There has to be a comprehensive program of the government, kasi sa ngayon, parang watak-watak ang water policy ng ating pamahalaan. At may iba-ibang ahensiya, may kanya-kanyang sakop na jurisdiction. Parang kung minsan 'di mo na alam kung ano'ng ginagawa ng kanan at kaliwang kamay," said the human rights lawyer.
(There has to be a comprehensive program of the government, because right now, the water policy of the government is all over the place. There are different government agencies with their respective jurisdictions. Sometimes, you can't even tell what they are doing.)
Diokno further said there is a need to review concession agreements with water supply companies like Manila Water and Maynilad, to ensure safeguards are in place to protect residents.
As for Macalintal, he suggested that local government units establish water tank systems to give people easier access to potable water.
"Magkaroon tayo ng tinatawag na tankering system sa mga lugar na talagang mahirap ang tubig. Na 'yung mga contiguous o magkakalapit na barangay ay dapat magkaroon sila ng mga malalaking tangke ng tubig, na kung in case of emergency, magagamit nila, lalong-lalo na kapag may panahon ng sunog," said Macalintal.
(Let us have a tankering system in areas that have low supply of water. Contiguous or nearby barangays should have big water tanks, so that they can use them in cases of emergency, especially during fires.)
The veteran election lawyer said that in the long term, the government should already explore other sources of water so a shortage could be avoided.