Speaker of the House of Representatives Alan Peter Cayetano often turns to Facebook Live to broadcast his greetings, messages, and assurances to the Filipino people. His recent Live last night, though primarily focused on the success of the 30th SEA Games, contained exciting news for frustrated consumers: The House of Representatives will be holding hearings into what President Duterte called “onerous” contracts between the Philippine government and water concessionaire firms Manila Water and Maynilad.
The Philippine government was recently ordered by a Singaporean arbitration court to pay P7.4 B in compensation to Manila Water for economic losses for the private firm. Another few billion will be paid to Maynilad. The reason? These water providers were prevented by the government from increasing their rates since 2015. This obviously placed the Philippine government and the Filipino consumer at the mercy of the water concessionaires, triggering President Duterte’s furious investigation of the lopsided contracts which let this abuse happen.
Citizens in the national capital region suffer water shortages and lose access to running water daily, but these companies still have the gall to demand their profits.
A Supreme court ruling in August of this year found both firms guilty of violating the Clean Water Act for failing to provide adequate sewerage systems to service the capital’s growing water and sanitation needs. Both firms warned that the fine will be passed on to the consumers and water rates would hike by more than P20 per cubic meter if the decision was enforced.
Obviously, the crackdown against these firms turning the human right to access clean water into a business is long overdue. Thankfully, President Duterte has begun to shed light on the issue, despite the strong backers and investors in both firms. In addition to that, social media allows us to see who is joining the fight and those who are remaining silent.