THE Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has ruled that Maynilad Water Services, Inc. failed to meet its service obligations following prolonged water delivery interruptions in its Metro Manila concession area, rendering it liable to a fine.

“(We) concluded that Maynilad failed to meet its service obligation of ensuring availability of an uninterrupted 24-hour supply of water at seven pounds per square inch (psi) minimum pressure to all connected customers in its service areas. Customers within the Putatan Water Treatment Plants (PWTP) supply zone were found to have been deprived of water… for at least 15 days, which adversely impacted their health and welfare,” the MWSS said.

The MWSS, in its regulatory capacity, said the fine on Maynilad is due to its “unusual and prolonged” water service interruptions from December 2021 to February 2022 in the PWTP supply zone, including Muntinlupa, Las Piñas, Parañaque, Pasay, Bacoor, Imus, and Cavite. It said it is still computing the size of the fine.

On Feb. 1, the MWSS asked Maynilad in a notice to explain its non-adherence to the water interruption schedules announced, following complaints from Maynilad customers of prolonged interruptions.

“We are in the process of collating the figures and checking the number of accounts affected, to determine the exact figure we can penalize them,” MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick N. Ty said in a virtual briefing.

The MWSS is set to implement the financial penalty in the form of bill rebates to affected Maynilad customers. Mr. Ty said the MWSS expects to announce the size of the fine by March.

The MWSS directed Maynilad to strictly adhere to its service interruption schedule and to fast-track its fixes for the problems at Putatan.

In a statement, Maynilad said the Putatan interruptions are the result of the “combined effect of algal blooms and prolonged turbidity in Laguna Lake hamper(ing) water production of our Putatan Treatment Plants. We wish to inform the public that our water service in the south has already been ramping up over the last few days following improvements in the turbidity level of Laguna Lake and our treatment process interventions… most of the affected customers now have uninterrupted supply.” 

According to Maynilad, Laguna de Bay accounts for 8% of its raw water supply, which the company taps to serve customers in the south of the capital.

“The lake’s raw water quality has become more variable in recent years owing to climate change impacts and the leaching of chemical pollutants, thus making the water purification process more challenging. This calls for more aggressive steps to protect the lake,” the company said.

“We will keep working closely with all Laguna Lake stakeholders to ensure that it is protected, and that it continues to serve as another viable, alternate long-term supply source for Metro Manila water consumers,” it added.

Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which has a majority stake in Maynilad, is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific, the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson