THE announcement of Manila Water of a “voluntary and one-time bill waiver” to compensate its consumers affected by the water supply shortage is a “big win for ordinary paying consumers.”
Manila Water customers will “receive a bill waiver of the minimum charge in their April bill, which reflects their March consumption.”
This is certainly a big victory for consumers. But we must not stop here. There is more that needs to be done in order to prevent this crisis from happening again. I hope this development will serve as a stepping stone as we thoroughly scrutinize the concession agreements entered into by our government with private water companies and revisit the government’s overall privatization policy of public utilities, such as water.
As Vice-chair of the Senate committee on health, I am also calling on Manila Water to reimburse public hospitals affected by the water crisis. Reimbursing public hospitals is the next step after waiving its consumers’ bill next month.
Data obtained from the Department of Health (DOH) said that six public hospitals suffered total losses of P4.116 million at the height of the water crisis. From March 8-18, the Rizal Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), National Center for Mental Health, East Avenue Medical Center and the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center sustained added operational costs amounting to P1.372 M.
Meanwhile, from March 12-18, the Rizal Medical Center and the NKTI incurred estimated revenue losses of P630,000 and P1.750 million, respectively, or a total of P2.38 million as a result of limiting patients due to the limited water supply.
In the same spirit and under the same principle that guided it in waiving its water fees as a form of compensation to consumers, Manila Water should immediately reimburse the public hospitals and compensate them for the public health risks their patients were exposed to because of the water crisis.
It must make good on its promise to compensate all those who were severely affected by the water crisis and help restore consumer trust and confidence. During the Senate hearing on the water shortage, officials from the Rizal Medical Center said they spent approximately P100,000 on the emergency procurement of water containers, about P50,000 for bottled water and P260,000 for an upgraded pump for the hospital’s cistern. It RMC said that it also spent for the fuel the firetrucks used to pump the water.