Group pushes gov’t takeover of Maynilad, Manila Water

By Lady Michelle Adobe, Queen Shawn Dok, Warang Kyusi and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday asked President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino to declare a state takeover of two water utility companies— the Maynilad Water Services Inc. and the Manila Water asserting that the policy of privatization of water resources did not work in favor of the Filipino people.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said the government should immediately and unconditionally rescind the contracts it entered with water concessionaires’ Maynilad and Manila Water and proceed with the honest to goodness nationalization of the water utility system not only in Metro Manila and those covered by Maynilad and Manila Water franchises but all over the country.

“It pays to check the label and the label that is privatization of water services is nothing but a long-running poison and perpetual nightmare to consumers and the Filipino public,” said France.

The Pamalakaya leader dared Aquino to go against his political benefactors– the Lopez clan, the owner of Maynilad and the Ayala group of Manila Water and pursue the collective interest and national agenda of the people.

“It is public knowledge that Aquino is the political best friend of the Lopezes and the Ayalas nowadays. The 64 US dollar question mark is– Will Aquino go against those who produced money for his presidential ambition and political career?” France asked.

The Malacanang Palace yesterday assuaged fears of a worsening water shortage because of the low level of Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan, the main source of water of Metro Manila.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda assured the public that the problem was limited to areas in the west zone being serviced by Maynilad Water Services Inc.

In the House of Representatives, however, the water shortage has divided lawmakers. Some congressmen were pushing for more drastic moves such as getting the President to put the area under a state of calamity or making him the “water czar,” and others saying Maynilad has the burden of resolving the crisis.

The Lopez-owned Maynilad has implemented rotating water interruptions over the past week, while Manila Water Co., concessionaire in the east zone, is considering rationing in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, France also pressed President Aquino to direct the Laguna Lake Development Authority(LLDA) to keep the 94,000 hectare lake free from any proposal that would tap the dying lake as potential source of potable water for Metro Manila.

“Laguna Lake is dying. Mr.Aquino should stop act that would send this lake dead on arrival,” the Pamalakaya official said.

“Please don’t touch Laguna Lake. We cannot solve a major problem by creating a bigger problem with the utilization of the 94,000 hectare lake. The idea is a crazy adventure aim to realize super profits under the guise of social welfare but in reality is all about monopoly windfall at the expense of people’s livelihood, welfare and the environment,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya believed business people and groups with vested interests on water utility and its promising profitability in times of crisis could be conspiring to create a condition of water crisis to justify the corporate takeover of Laguna Lake for commercial, industrial and other profit-driven ventures.

“Let me state the fact. The water problem manifested by water rationing in Metro Manila has been there since time immemorial and was further aggravated when water concessionaires took over the operations of the water utility which means poor service and high cost of water. Now they are talking again of water crisis. For what? For more takeover and profits?” said Pamalakaya.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson yesterday said the government is considering Laguna Lake as an alternative source of water, along with Marikina and Pampanga Rivers to address the water crisis and mitigate the impacts of the drought.

Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) general manager Edgar Manda said the authority was open to have Laguna Lake as alternative source of water for Metro Manila residents. He said the Lopez ownedMaynilad Water Services Incorporated could utilize its water treatment facilities to be able to get at least 50,000 million liters per day.

Pamalakaya said although the LLDA is authorized under Republic Act 4850 to issue permits for the use and abstraction of lake water, it is not authorized to perform acts that are deemed to destroy the ecological balance and very nature of Laguna Lake.

“The Noynoy Aquino led Manila government and the LLDA are not authorize to sell Laguna Lake and change its orientation and social purpose in the name of corporate interests, accumulation of capital and vested interests of people in and out of Malacañang,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya revealed the standing proposal of Maynilad which is to abstract 300 million liters per day (MLD) from Laguna Lake, that according to the group was extremely dangerous to the lake environment.

The militant group said the proposal will entail the permanent closure of Napindan Hydraulic control system, preventing the entry of salt water of Manila Bay. He said fish species in Laguna Lake requires the mixing of salt and fresh water to spawn and survive.“

“We strongly urge President Aquino, Manda, the DPWH and the LLDA authorities to refrain from further privatizing and converting the lake for the purpose of Jurassic model of development, super profiteering and fat returns of commissions and kickbacks. They are hereby prevented by national interest from entering into a contract that constitutes sell-out and all-out destruction of people’s livelihood and environment,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya said the Maynilad plan is like a death certificate to Laguna Lake killing not only the livelihood of more than 500,000 people engage in fish capture and fish culture activities. It said it will also endanger the fish supply and the fish need of millions of people in the National Capital Region, Laguna and Rizal provinces.

Pamalakaya and SLLM said despite of the present sorry state of Laguna Lake as Southeast Asia’s second largest lake, it is capable of producing at least 50,000 metric tons of fish per year, enough to address the fish requirement of not less than 10 million people.Citing the study conducted by the Netherlands government for the LLDA, it said Laguna De Bay, being the largest lake in the Philippines and strategically located in the heart of Calabarzon region, is the most viable source of water for Metro Manila’s west zone.

Maynilad, which is authorized water concessionaire of the Manila Water Sewerage System (MWSS) for the western part of Metro Manila, said the proposed plan if approved will enable the Lopez water utility firm to supply water to the remaining 29 percent covered by its agreement with MWSS in the West Zone area.

At present, Maynilad renders water supply to about 703,519 customers, or only 71 percent of its total concession area. The rest of the west zone does not have enough water supply — mainly comprising the areas of Muntinlupa, Parañaque, and Las Piñas.

The LLDA said if it gives the go signal Maynilad will take over operations of the existing water treatment plant in Putatan, Muntinlupa, which currently extracts 180,000 cubic meters per month of lake water and then supplies it to the Ayala Alabang subdivision for the residents’ domestic use.Maynilad will gradually implement the 300-million-liters-per-day extraction of water from the Lake. The first 100 million liters per day will be made available to the west zone of Metro Manila in 2010 and then water extraction will be increased to 200 million liters in 2011, and then 300 million liters per day by 2014

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