THE METROPOLITAN Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Regulatory Office has served a show-cause order to Manila Water Co., Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. in response to over 400 billing complaints filed by the customers of the two water providers.
In a statement, Wednesday, MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Lester N. Ty ordered the water concessionaires to explain their noncompliance to the regulatory agency’s directive to check for billing irregularities, to verify the consumption patterns of customers, and to withhold any customer billing statements with significant deviation from the said patterns.
Further, Mr. Ty ordered Maynilad and Manila Water to submit an explanation regarding their failure to communicate all information concerning the directives to their customers and concerned stakeholders.
MWSS gave the two water providers until the end of this week to issue an official explanation and to resolve the observed violations.
In a statement, east zone water concessionaire Manila Water said it was confident that it had followed every guideline issued by the MWSS on the implementation of average billing during the lockdown and the actual billing after, including the provision of installment payments and disconnection grace periods.
Manila Water said that based on the data it gathered from June 1 to July 27, only 7% or 73,588 of its 1 million customers have asked for clarifications on their billing statements.
“Of these, 90% were resolved by the call center or by business area frontliners. Only 0.7% of customers, or 7,937, have cases that were endorsed for further handling and of these, 6,246 were verified to have been billed based on actual consumption of customers,” Manila Water said.
“We take all our customers’ concerns seriously and have always strived to respond and resolve these above and beyond regulatory standards,” it added.
Meanwhile, west zone water provider Maynilad said that it had actively implemented measures to avoid customer confusion on how water consumption during the stricter lockdown period will be computed.
In a statement, Maynilad added that its field personnel had postponed the issuance of water bills that deviated from usual consumption patterns for verification and appropriate adjustments.
“These interventions helped, given the minimal number of bill-related inquiries and concerns raised — only 1.33% of 1.46 million accounts,” Maynilad said.
Both water concessionaires said they would comply with the show-cause order and deadline set by MWSS.
On July 23, the MWSS issued a “notices to explain” to Manila Water and Maynilad over the rising number of customer complaints it received with regard to water bills.
Average billing policy was applied by the two water concessionaires after meter reading and billing activities were suspended due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which has majority stake in Maynilad, is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. 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. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave