18 November 2003
The last thing the Freedom from Debt Coalition wants is for the problem of contaminated water in Metro Manila to get into a water testing competition, where the real issues are forgotten and the real culprits are let off the hook. It is the one thing that Maynilad Water Services Inc. would probably want, now that it has five deaths and hundreds of victims on its hands from the dirty water delivered to the West Zone.
Nonetheless, FDC stands by the integrity of the process with which it submitted water samples for testing to the National Science Research Institute (NSRI) of the University of the Philippines – Diliman. The sterilized glass containers were provided by NSRI itself. And several community residents witnessed the collection of water samples, which were sealed on site and submitted in less than six hours for testing, as required by the NSRI.
DOH and Malabon City health officials must take into account that the difference between the results of testing (16 coliform bacteria/100 ml) and the Philippine National Standard of 2.2 coliform bacteria/100 ml is very wide. The results could only have been compromised if FDC used extremely filthy glass jars contaminated with fecal coliform.
If new tests show that the water from Barangay Longos is up to standard, this comes as no surprise. Residents report that since media took up the issue, Maynilad has been busily making improvements in the last few days such as increasing chlorine and repairing pipes.
Water pressure levels also affect the quality of water. So water samples must be collected when the water pressure level is comparable to the time when FDC took the samples.
Malabon City officials maliciously imply that since FDC is conducting an anti-water privatization campaign, it is not a credible source of information. We say that it is precisely because of this campaign that Maynilad’s inability to fulfill its performance obligations despite six water rate increases has come to light. The whole point of having water in cholera-stricken areas tested by a reputable agency was to draw attention to Maynilad’s failures (which have turned deadly) to ensure the quality of its infrastructure and its water. So, yes, we do have an ax to grind with Maynilad, especially if people already disadvantaged by poverty -- while dying and suffering from gastro-intestinal diseases because of the concessionaire’s negligence -- are blamed for bringing this misery upon themselves!
It would do well for government officials to spend less time and energy on covering up their own inadequacies; and more on responsibly serving their constituents – who are after all rightly alarmed over the rising reports of contaminated water -- by settling the score with Maynilad for having breached its concession commitments in terms of improving water quality and service in the West Zone.
FDC reiterates its calls on government to:
- Conduct a thorough, impartial investigation of the problem of water contamination and incidents of illnesses and hospitalization.
- Ensure health and medical assistance for the victims.
- Ensure compensation to victims by parties responsible.
- Ensure sustained monitoring of the compliance with health standards by the water companies.
- Grant no more extensions to Maynilad’s payment of its concessions fees.
- Initiate steps to restore public ownership and management of water service.