The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Board of Trustees has unanimously adopted Resolution No. 2019-052 directing the MWSS Regulatory Office to study the imposition of penalties on Manila Water and suspension of increase in water rates following the water shortage that affected consumers in the east zone concession area.

This was jointly announced by MWSS Chairman Franklin Demonteverde and Administrator Reynaldo Velasco as the MWSS Board, acting on the recommendation of the Concession Monitoring Committee, ordered MWSS RO to look into the appropriate penalties that may be imposed on Manila Water relative to its failure to comply with Article 10.4 of the concession agreement.

Likewise, the Resolution directed the MWSS-RO to “assess the propriety of the suspension of the increase in rates” in the Manila Water concession areas because of service interruptions experienced in their coverage areas. The MWSS Board also tasked the Regulatory Office to submit its recommendations to the Board with “factual and legal basis for such proposals.”

The Resolution was signed by Board Chairman Franklin Demonteverde, Vice Chairman and MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco together with members Melchior I. Acosta Jr, Mariano C. Alegarbes, Merly M. Cruz, Jose R. Hernandez, Valeriano F. Pasquil, Melanie Sia-Lambino and Elpidio J. Vega.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco has called for sobriety even as Manila Water announced early this week that customers affected by the water crisis will be getting relief through a voluntary one-time waiver scheme on minimum charges.

The decision of Manila Water management was announced by its President Ferdinand Dela Cruz in a joint press conference with the MWSS chief last Tuesday.

It will be recalled that Velasco expressed his personal opinion last week that Manila Water should initiate some sort of relief and public contrition through a “self-imposed penalty” to compensate the people for the inconvenience the water interruption has caused them.

“I would like to emphasize that this is just a voluntary act by Manila Water done in good faith,” Velasco stressed. “The MWSS board tasked me to work with them so we gave inputs to see what else could be done to assuage the affected consumers,” he added.

The self-imposed penalty by Manila Water Company Inc. was closely followed by a statement of MWCI Chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Vice Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala on Wednesday as they appealed for the patience of customers of the private concessionaire, apologized and took responsibility for the water service interruptions experienced earlier this month.

“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,” the Zobel de Ayala brothers said in a joint statement posted on Jaime’s Facebook account.

The MWSS Board had met with Manila Water during which Velasco expressed his opinion that Manila Water should make amends and compensate the people.”

“At this time, let us respect the process and we have a mechanism on imposing other penalties. The fact that they volunteered, over and above, we should be happy,” he said adding the move has the support and blessing of the Board.

Under the Concession Agreement, Manila Water violated its obligation to provide uninterrupted water services to its customers as contained in Article 10.4.

As of 28 March 2019, water service availability has been restored to 98.1 percent in Manila Water concession areas at 7 psi. By end of March, it is targeted to reach 99%.