Zobels take responsibility for Manila Water’s shortcomings in handling outage

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AYALA CORP. Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala told customers of Manila Water Co., Inc. that the group is taking responsibility for its own shortcomings in the water shortage that has beset Metro Manila’s east zone since early this month.

“These past weeks have been difficult for many of us with the current water shortage situation. A multitude of factors resulted in this lack of supply, and we take responsibility for our own shortcomings in the company. We recognize and understand the difficulties that all our customers are going through,” Mr. Zobel said in a post on his Facebook page on Wednesday. The post was co-signed by his brother Fernando Zobel de Ayala, chairman of Manila Water.

His message comes a day after the Ayala subsidiary announced a one-time bill waiver program in March to be reflected in customers’ April bill as relief to those affected by what it called a “massive water service interruption.”

With the voluntary move expected to cost at least P150 million, Manila Water renewed its call for support from all sectors.

Manila Water President and Chief Executive Officer Ferdinand M. dela Cruz called on Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to develop new water sources to meet existing and future demand.

“As a concessionaire, our mandate is treatment and distribution but we work with MWSS on the supply,” he said on Tuesday when he announced the bill waiver program.

In congressional hearings last week, Mr. Dela Cruz also emphasized the concessionaire’s mandate, and its call for new water sources.

Mr. Zobel, who also chairs Manila Water, made a similar call for support.

“Resolving this situation requires support from all sectors. As our teams search for and implement immediate and long-term solutions to the water problem, we would also like to encourage everyone to conserve as much as they can,” he said.

He assured customers that Manila Water “is exploring all possible options to bring back services to the high levels that we are all accustomed to.”

“We continue to appeal for everyone’s patience as our teams at Manila Water are working hard and overtime to immediately and comprehensively remedy the situation,” he added.

As of March 25, the 8 to 12-hour water availability at ground floor level has reached 97%, he said.

“Again, we recognize our shortcomings in the situation. We will double our efforts to restore services to the high levels that we have had and to ensure that future shortages such as these will not be repeated. We are deeply grateful for your understanding,” he said.

Manila Water’s cooperation with MWSS on the supply side includes the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Prime Metroline Infrastructure Holdings, Inc. (Prime Infra), a company led by businessman Enrique K. Razon, Jr.

The MoU between Prime Infra and Manila Water calls for them to cooperate in the possible development of the Wawa bulk water supply project. The agreement formalizes the creation of a technical team that will conduct a technical study, which will be reviewed and approved by the MWSS.

Prime Infra said that compared with Laguna Lake and other similar water supply options, the project does not require an expensive treatment technology such as reverse osmosis. At the 500 million liter-per day capacity, it can serve more than 500,000 households in the MWSS franchise area, it added.

Mr. Razon’s group is to present the project to MWSS on Wednesday, the water agency’s Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco said in a chance interview. — Victor V. Saulon