Thus asserted the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) in response to the advice given consumers by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to conserve water in the light of nearly critical water levels in Angat Dam.In connection, FDC supported MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando’s call for Maynilad and Manila Water not to create additional burdens for consumers.

“For the past six years, private water companies have not lowered the non-revenue water (NRW) due to their failure to repair busted pipes and curb illegal connections. Water resources in Angat Dam are largely being wasted due to the gross negligence of private concessionaires,” the coalition stated.

According to MWSS-Regulatory Office data (1997-2001), NRW in Maynilad’s West Zone has gone up from 58% to 66%. And in Manila Water’s East Zone rose slightly from 44% to 48%, much lower than the 16% reduction promised consumers who are shelling out money precisely for this purpose.

FDC added that “government should first ask owners of golf courses, big malls, hotels and other luxurious establishments – who might be the biggest pilferers --to take the first step in conserving water instead the poor water consumers who do cannot even afford water connections.”

The group called on President Arroyo to learn from the outbreak of gastro-intestinal diseases in October and ensure that the concessionaires’ perform their obligations in repairing busted pipes and maintaining the right water pressure. Otherwise, added FDC, government is again courting another possibly deadly scenario resulting from the concessionaires’ neglect when the dry season hits its peak in a few months.

As to, President Arroyo’s “Patubig ni Gloria”, FDC cast doubt on the sustainability of what appears to be election gimmickry on the part of the administration party to lure the votes of the urban poor.“Access to water is a human right; it is not a privilege based on the consumer’s capacity to pay. GMA has no right to call ‘Patubig ni Gloria’ a ‘gift’ since this is an obligation of the government to the people,” FDC explained.

GMA should also make it clear whether “Patubig ni Gloria” is free from from the overcharges of Maynilad, which it illegally collects through the AEPA (Accelerated Extraordinary Price Adjustment) and FCDA (Foreign Currency Differential Adjustment) even as it continues to refuse paying government over P7 billion in concession fees.

FDC reiterated its call for the reversal of the government policy on water privatization and immediately terminate the Maynilad contract. “If there is anyone who should benefit from this industry, it should be the public and the government and not these private companies that treat water service as a commodity designed to gain more profit.” ###

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