By Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter

THE Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Friday asked the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage (MWSS) to “immediately” hold a public hearing to look into possible liabilities of Manila Water Co. Inc., in connection with the water crisis in Metro Manila.

In its rejoinder, filed on April 12, Bayan in particular prayed that a decision be made imposing penalties on Manila Water for the breach of its service obligations, pursuant to its Concession Agreement.

“In our rejoinder, we pointed out that the MWSS RO (Regulatory Office) should immediately set the matter for public hearing especially in light of MWSS Board resolution 2019-052, which ordered the RO to study the imposition of penalties and the suspension of the water rate hike for Manila Water,” Bayan said in a statement Friday.

Article 10.4 of the Concession Agreement between the MWSS and the MWC read in part that failure to meet any Service Obligation for more than 60 days or 15 days “in cases where the failure could adversely affect public health or welfare” will subject concessionaires to financial penalties.

The same provision cited all penalties shall be rebated to customers affected by the concessionaire’s failure to provide necessary service.

“Clearly, it is the RO which has the mandate to determine how the rebates will be implemented. We are therefore disappointed with the response so far given by the Chief Regulator who seems intent on abdicating the RO’s role to defend consumer interests,” Bayan also said.

The MWSS on April 5 issued a response to Bayan’s petition, in which it noted that even as a regulator it is not authorized to decide on rebates to cover unexpected incidental costs due to the water shortage.

“Please recall that the Regulatory Office is not imbued with quasi-judicial power to decide on the matter,” the MWSS RO was quoted as saying in the rejoinder. “In view, thereof, you may resort to the courts to demand your rights.”