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Two water concessionaires owe gov’t P414.6-M fines    1/13/2015 9:43:00 AM    ReadCount:410

The two concessionaires for water distribution and sewerage system in Metro Manila owe government P414.6 million in fines as penalty for failing to provide waste water treatment facilities in their respective areas of operation.
Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza said the fine imposed on Maynilad and Manila Water Company (MWC) will further increase as the firms, being run by business giants in the country, have continued to ignore the government’s demand that they put in place water treatment facilities.
Atienza assailed the continued non-compliance with the terms and conditions of their water concessionaire agreements with the government.
Bayan Muna Partylist Reps. Nery Colmenares and Carlos Zarate noted that Maynilad and MWC have already collected an estimated P6 billion from their customers supposedly to finance huge water supply projects and sewer treatment facilities.
However, the two concessionaires have failed to implement the projects up to now.
Instead, Maynilad and MWC even decided to increase their rates, said Colmenares and Zarate.
The opposition solons said increase in water rates should not be imposed until the concessionaires have refunded the amounts they collected from customers.
On the other hand, Atienza demanded that the fines imposed on the two water firms by government be paid immediately.
“Until now, these two water concessionaires have not fully complied with the terms of their contracts. What’s worse, up to now, the consumers are the ones bearing the burden of the special privileges granted to them in the said contracts,” Atienza said.
Atienza said it was during his time as secretary of the Department of Environment Natural Resources (DENR) that the penalties were imposed against the two concessionaries.
He pointed out that the two firms have been charging consumers payment for water treatment facilities which none of them had provided.
As a result, they were fined P200,000 per day of non-compliance. Records show that from May 7, 2009 until January 2015, the running total has reached P414.6 million in fines.
“Due to the absence of waste water treatment facilities, household waste and sewage from Metro Manila and surrounding provinces has continuously been discharged into the Pasig River and, subsequently, into , virtually killing the Bay and rendering it as one giant pozo negro,” explained Atienza.
“ Technically, all household wastewater should be cleaned as part of the service to be provided by Maynilad and Manila Water. But instead of doing so, consumers are even charged for a service that is not being rendered to them,” said.
“In progressive cities like Hongkong, Singapore and Malaysia, household waste and liquid that has been processed through the wastewater treatment facilities come out clean and is even safe for drinking,” Atienza said.
Colmenares and Zarate said MWC and Maynilad had no right to increase water rates without refunding to consumers the P6 billion they have collected for unimplemented projects.
MWC, through its corporate communications head Jeric Sevilla, said the 1.33 percent increase in foreign currency differential adjustment will reflect a mere P10 to P20 increase in water consumed by residential customers who have average consumption of 20 to 30 cubic meters a month.
Maynilad, under business tycoon Manny Pangilinan, will implement a 1.12 percent increase in FCDA, imposing a P9 hike for residential customers.
“The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System-Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO) should not have approved the rate hike because the two private water concessionaires have yet to refund to their respective customers the more than P6 billion they have collected for unimplemented water and sewerage improvement projects, along with the dam projects” said Colmenares, senior deputy minority leader in the Lower House.
Colmenares said the two water firms should immediately refund the P6 billion they have collected from customers and that this should be prioritized even before any discussion on water rate hike starts.
It will be recalled that congressmen have been demanding the refund of mandatory contributions collected by the water concessionaires for the implementation of the P5.4-billion Angat Water Reliability and the P45.3 billion Laiban Dam projects.
by Ben Rosario
January 13, 2015