Thursday, July 19, 2012

Freeze’ Water Rate Hike

MANILA, Philippines --- A party-list is calling for Malacañang to do away with the average 89-centavo increase in water rate granted by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to its concessionaires, calling the increase "not only highly questionable but also extremely deplorable." Anakpawis, which promotes the interest of workers, farmers, and fisherfolk, said President Benigno S. Aquino III should issue an administrative order to freeze the rate increase that would burden millions of consumers. The rate hike was granted to Manila Water and Maynilad. "In the name of national interest and public welfare, we strongly demand Malacañang to recall MWSS' shocking and blood pressure decision granting the petitions for water rate increase of Maynilad and Manila Water. It appears to us the hike was granted to please the campaign contributors of Mr. Aquino in the last May 2010 elections," Anakpawis Vice Chairman Fernando Hicap argued. In justifying the rate hike, MWSS said low-income households with minimal consumption will be exempted from higher rates and stressed that the tariff increase was due to foreign exchange adjustments. The higher billing will be reflected in September. Hicap warned that Anakpawis will lead take to the streets to pressure the Palace to recall the increase, which will raise the cost of water, a basic necessity for millions of Metro Manila residents. Yesterday, 50 Anakpawis staged a noise barrage at the Philippine Coconut Authority (Philcoa) in Quezon City to kick off their protest actions. Anakpawis said it will also ask its chapters in Quezon City, Makati, Taguig, Pateros, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan, Mandaluyong, as well as in Manila, Caloocan, Paranaque, Pasay, Las Pinas, Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, Malabon, Navotas and in the municipalities of Bacoor, Imus, Kawit, Noveleta and Rosario in Cavite to demonstrate against the rate increase. These areas are covered by concessions given to Manila Water and Maynilad. Anakpawis said it will use legal options to stop the rate increase, including the filing of people's petition before the MWSS and the Supreme Court. Anakpawis also raised doubts about the quality of water being distributed by Maynilad to the southern sections of Metro Manila, noting that the company had been drawing water from Laguna de Bay, which had been described by local and foreign experts as the country's "largest septic tank." Moreover, studies conducted by the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB) showed the high level of feminization among fish species in the country's biggest lake. The high level of estrogen from human urine has been blamed for the genetic mutation among milkfish, tilapia, bighead carp and even the knife fish that now dominates the 94,900-hectare lake. Hydrologists have said that for Laguna de Bay to be a sustainable source of water, its average depth should be more than 2.8 meters, the cutoff for any viable water harvesting system. The average depth of the lake is now only 2.5 meters, which means the purification process would be costly and this would only lead to higher water tariff rates, which Anakpawis says is happening now.