PCCI calls for ‘reckoning’ over water service failures

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THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. urged the government to penalize water concession holders that fail to deliver adequate services, in the wake of Manila Water Co. Inc.’s service interruptions in Metro Manila’s east zone this month.

“We sincerely hope that there will be some form of reckoning for this issue. It’s too important and critical to our people’s well-being and our economy. Moving forward, government has to make sure that there will be policies in place to first, prevent this from happening again, and second, to identify penalties for those responsible,” the PCCI said in a statement Tuesday.

“We believe that a true socially-responsible company with high corporate governance standards will be sincere in their efforts to rectify the situation and will not skirt or avoid responsibility,” it added.

The group noted the absence of rules to hold water concessionaire Manila Water accountable for the current shortage.

“This water shortage has caused more than just inconvenience and stress to Filipinos. Apart from disrupting our daily way of life, it has also affected productivity as many people could not go to work, school, or manage their business. Many businesses had to shut down or limit operations. Services were also disrupted. The economic impact of this shortage cannot be swept under the rug,” the PCCI said.

The PCCI said Manila Water apologized nearly two weeks after its La Mesa reserve breached critical levels, triggering the shortage in the east zone.

Manila Water is allocated 1,600 million liters per day (MLD) from Angat Dam, which is less than East Zone demand of about 1,740 MLD.

Separately, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it has obtained commitments from bottled water producers to hold prices steady and keep supply flowing during the shortage.

“We are pleased to report to the consuming public that the BIAP (Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines) assured the DTI that there will be no increase in the prices of potable bottled water, and that supplies are sufficient until the projected end of our water situation in May 2019,” Undersecretary for the Trade’s Consumer Protection Group Ruth B. Castelo said in a statement Tuesday.

The DTI has been receiving complaints about retailers taking advantage of the water shortage to raise prices on water-related products.

The department has since included in its list of price-controlled products items such as pails, which consumers need to collect water when service is limited to certain hours of the day. It also proposed to regulate prices for water dippers, commonly known as tabo. — Janina C. Lim