THE METROPOLITAN Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is penalizing Maynilad Water Services, Inc. for failure to comply with service obligations as stipulated in its concession agreement with the government.

In a statement on Friday, the government’s water regulator said it is ordering Metro Manila’s west zone concessionaire to pay P2,500 in rebate per household for customers affected by a water interruption in Barangay Captain Albert Aguilar in Las Piñas City last month.

“The primary reason is Maynilad’s failure to provide 24/7 water services to its customers who were severely affected by the water service interruption last May 2019 in portions of Brgy. Captain Albert Aguilar in Las Piñas City,” MWSS said.

It noted the affected customers were “deprived” of water service, as the minimum water pressure recorded in the area for more than 15 days was at seven pounds per square inch (psi), versus the normal water pressure of between 30-80 psi.

The concession agreement between the MWSS and Maynilad says failure to meet a service obligation within 15 days in cases where the failure could adversely affect public health or welfare is subject to penalties.

The penalty on Maynilad will be implemented through rebates in monthly water bills or statements of account of customers “until fully expended.”

“The MWSS Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO) will facilitate the implementation of the rebate to all affected customers as soon as possible and would like to assure the public that it is doing everything in its power to protect their interest,” the MWSS said.

In a statement sent via mobile phone message, Maynilad confirmed it has already received the notice on service obligation failure from the MWSS-RO. “[W]e will coordinate with our regulators to determine the rationale behind their decision and how they arrived at their computations. We will set our next course of action based on this discussion,” it said.

Last Apr. 30, the MWSS issued a notice of service obligation failure to Maynilad, citing service interruptions and low water pressure in parts of its concession area. The letter then did not include a fine imposition yet.

Five days before that, the MWSS fined Metro Manila’s east zone concessionaire Manila Water Company, Inc. P1.134 billion — consisting of a P534.05-million penalty and a P600-million fund for the development of a new water supply source — for water shortage across Metro Manila in March. The fine on the Ayala-led water firm will be distributed to consumers in the form of a deduction in monthly water bills.

Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which had a 52.8% stake in Maynilad as of end-2018, saw its share price slashed by 0.21% to end at P4.80 apiece on Friday, while DMCI Holdings, Inc., which has a 25% stake, saw its price drop 1.53% to P10.30 each.

Metro Pacific is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Company Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Denise A. Valdez