The House Committee on Metro Manila Development chaired by Rep. Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City) chastised the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Regulatory Office for its failure to impose sanction against one of its private water concessionaire, Manila Water Company Inc., for violation of the agreement.
Castelo told MWSS Regulatory Office Chief Regulator Patrick Lester Ng Ty that if MWSS could grant hefty bonuses through a board resolution, then it could also pass a resolution that would impose a citation and even fees on certain violations of its private water concessionaires.
This after MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco admitted that bonuses were granted through a board resolution.
“What the committee is pointing out, being a regulator, your authority should not be explicit. If there is a violation, you should already act by a mere resolution. That’s already sufficient,” Castelo told Ty.
He said Ty should stop blaming Congress in public “that we are incompetent and there’s no action and that it is necessary that a water department be created.”
The water shortage has affected more than a million households in the areas covered by Manila Water.
Former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2nd District, Pampanga) took the lead in calling for a public hearing to discuss the water crisis that has been affecting Metro Manila and the neighboring areas.
Last March 14, Arroyo initiated a briefing by the MWSS to help the government find immediate solutions to the ongoing water shortage in the East Zone. The following day, she led the opening of the cross border pipe at the corner of West Avenue and Bulacan Street in Quezon City to enable Maynilad to supply water to Manila Water.
Castelo said the hearing will also determine the cause of the water crisis which he described as a “gigantic and catastrophic problem that contributed to a lot of inconvenience and suffering to the people of Metro Manila.”
Ty, in response to the question of Rep Alfredo Benitez (3rd District, Negros Occidental) if the MWSS Regulatry Office had taken any steps to impose penalties to Manila Water for its breach, replied in the negative.
He said that the MWSS Regulatory Office has no authority to impose fines and penalties at this time, prompting Benitez to say “so sorry lang, no penalties to this notice of violation?”
“Unfortunately, the MWSS Regulatory Office is not given any power to impose fines and penalties,” Ty said.
He said MWSS has been repeatedly requesting Congress, petitioning for a department of water and a water regulatory commission to allow the imposing of these fines and penalties.
Castelo said that as a regulatory body, its authority to cite a violation or impose penalty should not be explicit.
“Even a board resolution is sufficient to impose a penalty but your office did not do it,” he said.
Rep. Lito Atienza (Party-list, BUHAY) corrected the impression of the MWSS that the concession contract is a law.
“Wala kaming kinalaman sa executive agreement na yun. Hindi Kongreso ang magbabago nun. Ang pangulo ng bansa ang pumirma nun, and pangulo ng bansa ang maaaring magbago ng kontrata,” he explained.
Manila Water President and CEO Ferdinand dela Cruz said that under the concessionaire agreement, whatever costs they will incur to address the problem cannot be recovered.