Press Release
September 21, 2010

Enrile: Probe anomalies in water resources use

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has called for an investigation of anomalies conducted by water agencies which reportedly continues to result in inefficiencies in the water sector, further causing a water crisis.

In a privilege speech on Tuesday, Enrile said that similar to the power sector, laws regulating water resources should be reviewed and restructured to separate the supply of water resources from distribution operations and to prevent monopoly in the water sector.

The veteran senator observed that regulatory responsibility in the water sector is highly fragmented, with responsibility devolved to several government agencies.

This, he said, has resulted in a lack of adequate or unifying legal provisions for regulation, resulting in differing and conflicting positions in the enforcement of water laws.

Apart from this, Enrile said, due to the number of government agencies in the water sector, there exists several water sector development plans, leaving the government with no comprehensive plan for water resource development and utilization.

Enrile suggested the creation of a new Regulatory Board independent of any terms and conditions of any concession agreement.

"Public utilities such as power and water should be rendered as a public service and end-users should be entitled to the least cost of service," Enrile said.

The Senate President observed that Metro Manila suffered recently from a water crisis, with some areas experiencing water rationing or rotating supply interruptions. This should not have occurred, he said, because the country has enough water resources.

Enrile noted that Angat Dam is already over-stretched and could no longer supply the requirements of Metro Manila and Bulacan farmers. The government must therefore tap alternative water supply sources, such as Wawa Dam.

Enrile lamented that San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders had applied with the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) for a permit to develop the Wawa Water System at no cost to the government way back in 1993. However, it was only after more than a decade that the NWRB approved SLRB's water application but only for a limited right covering only 3.48 cubic meter per second (cms), much lower than their original application for 40 cms.

Enrile said that the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage system (MWSS) had authorized one of its concessionaires, the Manila Water Company, Inc (MWCI), to make advance collection of P732 million from its consumers supposedly to develop the Wawa Dam Project. When questions were raised as to who has the legal water rights over Wawa Dam, the project was aborted.

Enrile said that since consumers were made to pay for the advances collected by MWCI as allowed by MWSS, there is now an urgent need to review whether an abuse of discretion was committed by the MWSS in allowing such advance collections.

Both the MWSS and the MWCI, he said, must "disclose the timeframe within which these advances were collected from consumers, whether the new projects for which the advance collections were used actually resulted in the improvement in the delivery of water service or if, unfortunately, it just became another undue burden being shouldered by the consumers."

Enrile pointed out that "water is a survival issue which affects the health and hygiene of the individuals, sanitation within the communities, as well as the operations of industries, companies and businesses."

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