Duterte threatens to fire water officials

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Manila Water Chief Operating Officer (CEO) Perry Rivera, Manila Water Chief Executive officer and President Ferdinand Dela Cruz, Maynilad President and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez, and MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco testify on Monday, March 18, during the House inquiry on the water shortage in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces. | ManilaTimes.net photo by Rudy Martinez

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night, March 19, threatened to sack officials from Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), Maynilad and Manila Water for the water supply shortage experienced in certain areas of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo disclosed among the media what transpired during the 40-minute meeting of the president with the officials of agencies responsible for the water crisis.

“In a stern message delivered without even once looking at the officials, the obviously outraged president threatened to fire the MWSS officials and terminate the concessionaires’ contracts,” the palace spokesman said as reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Panelo shared that the meeting became a “presidential monologue” since Duterte disregarded any insights from the other parties noting that “he was not going to listen to their explanation as to why there was a water shortage as such would be just plain excuses.”

“The chief executive told them he was not going to listen to their explanation as to why there was a water shortage as such would be just plain excuses. They simply did not do their job,” Panelo said as reported by Rappler.

‘All they care about is get profit from the water of the people’ and to their sufferance as well. The president told them they could have simply anticipated such shortage and could have done something about it,” he added.

Panelo said that the reprimanded officials were aware of how to resolve the water shortage crisis faced by the Metro Manila residents but they waited for Duterte’s order before doing something about it.  

“They had to wait for him to threaten them with personally rushing to Manila from Davao to grapple with the crisis before they moved to end it. The chief executive bluntly told them to ‘shape up or ship out!,” Panelo said.

“He said the officials knew of the problem leading to the stoppage of the flow of water but they did not resolve to prevent it from happening. They could have simply anticipated such shortage and could have done something about it,” the spokesman added.

Lawmakers call to dismiss said officials

Several lawmakers urged the president to hold the top officials of the water regulatory board — MWSS — accountable for failing to prevent the water interruptions among residents of Metro Manila and nearby areas.

A member of the House Committee on Metro Manila affairs and Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy urged Duterte to appoint a qualified official who can better manage the regulatory board.

“We hope President Duterte appoints a new head of the MWSS who knows the ins and outs of the job. If MWSS top officials cannot find a solution, then they should resign and just enjoy the respite from the strenuous requirements of public service,” Dy said.

Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice said the water crisis cannot be attributed solely to the low supply from the water resources. He emphasized that the water agencies were fully aware of the challenges but they failed to act on it in a timely manner.

“As early as January, Manila Water already knew that they will be needing (1.7 billion liters), beyond the (1.6 billion liters) allocated to them. Yet they did not do something about it. They waited for the March 6 water service interruption before they acted on it,” Erice said.

Senators also mandated the water concessionaires to provide compensation for all the people who were affected by the said water crisis in the Eastern zone of Metro Manila and Rizal province.

Senator Risa Hontiveros shared that aside from the public apology issued, they must “demonstrate its firm commitment to public accountability and restore consumer trust and confidence.”

“While Manila Water’s public apology and act to hold itself responsible for the water shortage are recognized, fair and just compensation to the consumers is in order,” Hontiveros said as reported by The Manila Times.

“With over a million households deprived of access to clean water and exposed to numerous health risks, any apology without compensation is hollow and meaningless,” the senator added.

She also elaborated that it is constitutional to impose penalties once they fail to deliver the service they promised. She emphasized that “all penalties received by the regulatory body will be rebated to affected consumers.”

“Manila Water’s concession agreement clearly stipulates that the regulatory office can impose financial penalties on the concessionaire if its failure to meet its service obligation adversely affects public health or welfare,” Hontiveros added. 

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