The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and water consumer group Pagkakaisa ng mga Tagapagtangkilik ng Tubig sa Kamaynilaan (PATTAK) today blasted the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems (MWSS) regulators for their failure to take advantage of the 30-day period of clarification to block the immediate implementation of Maynilad’s planned water rate hike.

“After announcing that it would make use of the clarificatory period provided for under the arbitration process, the MWSS has apparently decided to drop all pretense that it is looking out for the welfare of water consumers. By simply allowing the deadline to lapse, the MWSS has paved the way for the implementation of the 9.8% increase granted to Maynilad by the International Chamber of Commerce-led arbitration panel,” Sammy Gamboa FDC Secretary-General said.

FDC said the MWSS decision to do nothing was tantamount to neglect of duty and a great disservice to already suffering consumers.

“Natutulog sila sa pancitan! The least MWSS could have done was to use the clarificatory process to further delay the implementation of the water rate increase and buy time for consumer groups while they look for possible legal remedies. But such is the influence of the private sector on so-called regulators under a privatized regime that the MWSS couldn’t even be bothered to ask questions regarding the ruling,” Gamboa noted.

“They had thirty days to prepare and they came up with nothing. Was it just plain laziness? Was it incompetence? Or was it a deliberate decision not to act and therefore hand Maynilad its water rate hike on silver platter? We demand answers from MWSS Chief Regulator Joel Yu and the entire MWSS Board,” Gamboa said.

According to FDC, the impact of the recent wave of rate increases and price hikes should not be underestimated.

”After privatizing water services in 1997, Metro Manila consumers are already paying the fifth highest average water tariff among major cities in the Asia-Pacific. The added P3.06/cubic meter (cu.m.) to the current P31.28/cu.m. makes water even less affordable particularly for the poorest sectors of society. Remember that this is on top of the recent MRT/LRT fare increase and the new power and oil price hikes,” Gamboa added.

FDC and PATTAK, both members of the multi-sectoral PALAG NA! campaign against the succession price and rate hikes, said that despite MWSS’ capitulation, they would continue to fight the impending water rate hike through street protests, legislative action and other legal measures. 

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