Press Release
May 20, 2020

Water districts which make handwashing possible face liquidity problems

Community-owned water districts should be included in the economic assistance government is packaging, "because these frontline utilities supply a basic need for which there is no substitute," Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

"Kung walang tubig, paano maghuhugas ng kamay? If water is essential to the anti-pandemic fight, then we must see to it that those who supply it are financially buoyant," he said.

But the law deferring the payment of water bills and the decision of water districts themselves to relax collection have led to cash flow problems for many of them, Recto explained.

"Maraming water districts, lalo na 'yung mga maliliit, ang may liquidity problems," he said.

"These districts serve small towns and rural areas which water conglomerates find too unprofitable to operate in," he said.

Unlike Maynilad and Manila Water, which have "a reservoir of resources" to tide them over during the period when bill payment "has likewise been placed under quarantine, itong mga water districts, walang malalim na balon ng pondo."

Recto said the almost 600 water districts in the country combine for 20 million household customers, or one in five water users.

The bulk of water districts are in "Category D," with less than 3,000 connections. "Although they are required to keep a financial reserve that can meet three months of operations, most of them do not have this cushion," Recto said.

The same problems hound local governments which run their own water system, Recto said.

"When the local budget is depleted by pandemic expenses, when low water consumption brought about by the closure of business establishments leads to a dip in water revenues, and when collection suffers because of the staggered payment policy, all of these add pressure on the LGU budget," Recto said.

Recto said "if internet is treated like a vital utility during the lockdown, then all the more should water be."

"We can survive without broadband, even without electricity -- but water, like food, is essential for man's existence," he said.

He said the various economic stimulus packages being bounced around for the consideration of Congress should include a provision "distinctly addressing what relief should be given to water districts."

"Can their loans be refinanced? Ano ang mga posibleng tulong para tuloy-tuloy ang kanilang service expansion?" Recto said.

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