When the Katipunan was discovered by the colonizers in 1896, all the leaders of the secret society, led by Andres Bonifacio, gathered in Balintawak, brought out and tore their cedulas into pieces and shouted “Long live the Philippines!” to signal their determination to take up arms and fight for independence.

Today, dozens of water rights activists, belonging to Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) - Blue Drop Campaign and Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Tagatangkilik ng Tubig sa Kamaynilaan (PATTAK), celebrated the historic event, known as the “Cry of Balintawak,” in Quezon City, with a twist. Instead of cedulas, the group brought out and tore their water bills into pieces and shouted “Tubig!” [water] to symbolize their fight against the ‘failed’ privatization of water services in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

“Water, like freedom, is essential for humans to live with dignity. Unfortunately nowadays, this life-giving liquid is being traded by profit-driven private corporations,  with the collusion of this debt-saddled government, as a consumer product, which means that people’s right to water now depends on the contents of their pockets,” said FDC vice president Wilson Fortaleza.

Water makes up 60 to 70 percent of the composition of every living entity. It pervades a human being’s existence from the moment of conception up to his/her last breath. It is a cleansing agent or symbol of purification and courier of blessings during rites and rituals of different faiths.

“This priceless valuation of water, however, is increasingly losing its intensity and prevalence in our society. After all the articulations on its irreplaceable role in the circle of life, water is not now being given the respect it deserves,” said the FDC leader, reiterating that the privatization of Metro Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), after 10 years, is a failure.

“Our experience with the debt-induced privatization of Metro Manila’s water service speaks a gloomy tale of unabated tariff hikes, unmet service obligations and upholding of the concessionaires’ interests at the expense of public welfare,” stressed Fortaleza.

The group also warned the public of a looming water rate increase scheduled late this year because of rate rebasing that would allow water concessionaires to adjust rate, based on inflation, investments and foreign currency adjustments.

“If Bonifacio were only alive today, he would have revolted against the privatization of water services in the country,” Fortaleza ended. ###

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