Water and Politics

Water and Politics

Last December 3, 2019, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte accused the owners of Maynilad and Manila Water of ‘syndicated estafa’ because of what he claims as ‘onerous’ provisions in the concession agreement signed by the two companies with the government of Pres. Fidel V. Ramos in 1997. Until today, the government has yet to release which clause is ‘onerous’ in the contract.

Let’s step back to the time before this agreement took place — before 1997, when MWSS was still in charge of distributing water to Metro Manila. I still remember that I have to wake up at 3 AM to fetch water from a public faucet about 300 meters from my Lola’s house. We do have faucets in our house but water trickles so slow that only two pails of water can be saved, and that’s between 3 – 4 AM. By going somewhere there is stronger water, even if I have to push a cart full of jugs of water, we will have enough to bath and cook for a day. That was how it was during the days of MWSS here in Metro Manila prior to 1997.

In 1996, President Fidel V. Ramos decided to initiate privatization of the water distributions services in Metro Manila, which then awarded 25-year concession agreement to Maynilad (West Zone) and Manila Water (East Zone). Water services in Metro Manila improved gradually after this privatization.

By year 2000, we now have water 24 hours a day, although it was still weak that we need to use pump to suck water from the pipes.

By year 2003, water in our house is strong enough that we no longer need pumps.

By year 2005, water was so strong that it can even reach our water tank located in the third floor of our house. We no longer use pumps which is costing us about PHP 1,000 a month in electricity. That is how it has been ever since until today.

How much water are we paying today in January 2020? PHP 25 pesos per cubic meter for Maynilad and PHP 11 per cubic meter for Manila Water. This varies slightly through the years but that is about it.

That is 2 1/2 centavos per liter (Maynilad) and 1 centavo per liter for Manila Water customers!

If you are complaining about that amount, then why don’t you try fetching water from Pasig River! Some people are just complaining without appreciating what we have.

Now this government is pandering to the whims of their supporters by hurling rants towards the private firms who have been serving us for so many years?! Really? I have been paying about 1/3 of my income to taxes for the government and I’ve not seen any improvement in plugging the leaks caused by corruption. While my 2 1/2 centavos of water paid to these firms have been life savers for us. That is fair, not onerous in my book.

The implications of the shooting-from-the-hip statements will victimize the common Filipino in the future, long before that man who uttered those statements have left his “throne”.

The certainty, transparency, and clarity of contracts between the contracting parties must be respected if we are going to have the rule of law. And every Filipino should support that regardless of your political color because basic services transcend terms of politicians.

Think about yourself and your family because you will need water long after your idols have rested in peace (or so you think).

This World Bank document is factual reporting for those interested to be enlightened about how Maynilad and Manila Water came to being.