Water privatization is a bane to Metro Manila residents
Half a million residents suffered a limited six- to 18-hour supply of water per day for almost two weeks last month. Although water supply is gradually stabilizing, water supply interruptions are expected to continue in the coming months.
People bear the brunt of inefficient water distribution services under greedy private operators. This experience directly contradicts the promise that privatization will result in “more efficient and affordable services.” This is a vivid manifestation of how neoliberal policies, advocated by the reactionary state, negatively affect the people.
Water distribution infrastructures controlled by large companies are in poor condition and inadequate. Despite ample water supply in Angat Dam, almost 300,000 Metro Manila residents are are already without access to water services. On March, almost half a million suffered the same.
Water service provision in Metro Manila is duopolized by Manila Water and Maynilad, which operate in the east and west zone respectively. The concession agreement states that Manila Water will get 40% (1,600 MLD or million liters/day) of Angat’s raw water and Maynilad the remaining 60% (2,400 MLD).
Manila Water is claiming that its 1,600 MLD from Angat is insufficient as the demand in its service area already rose to 1,750 MLD. This, however, is a mere subterfuge to conceal the fact that it is wasting about 176 MLD due to its defective water distribution and storage facilities. This is, in fact, higher than the 150-MLD deficit that is being blamed as the root of the so-called water crisis.
If water losses from Maynilad (1,001 MLD) were to be accounted for, total wastage from both concessionaires due to defective infrastructures is at 1,177 MLD (or 785% of the said deficit). Based on targets set under the privatization concession, the volume of water losses should have already been reduced to around 732 to 976 MLD as early as 2001. Instead of the the promised reduction, wastage has further increased as a result of the concessionaires’ failure to repair their pipelines and address the leakages.
Even data by the reactionary government belie the much hyped water supply “shortage.” In fact, Angat Dam has been reported to have as much as 1,200 MLD in unutilized capacity.
Water concessionaires are not interested in ensuring public welfare but in extracting superprofits through their services. There is ample water supply but storage and distribution infrastructures remain insufficient and defective.
Instead of resulting in cheaper services and infrastructure modernization as promised, privatization has burdened the people with rocketing water rates despite poor distribution services by the concessionaires. Over the past two decades, water rates and corporate profits have simultaneously and incessantly risen.
Since water privatization in Metro Manila began in 1997, water rates have have risen by 879% and 574% for Manila Water and Maynilad customers, respectively.
On the other hand, net incomes of Manila Water and Maynilad increased by 137% and 444%, respectively, from 2007 to 2017 alone. Manila Water’s net income further increased by 8% (reaching P6.6 billion) this 2018.
Manila Water is owned and operated by the Ayala Corporation in partnership with the International Finance Corporation-World Bank (IFC-WB), and other Japanese, Singaporean and British creditors. The same corporation also owns big businesses in other strategic services and industries including banking, telecommunications, power distribution and transportation among others.
On the other hand, Maynilad was formerly owned by the Lopez family and is now owned and operated by Manny V. Pangilinan in partnership with the Salim/Metro Pacific Investment Corporation (MPIC) of Indonesia and other Japanese and French creditors. He also owns giant businesses in other services and industries including mining, power distribution and telecommunications among others.
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) was privatized by the Ramos regime in 1997 in compliance with the policy recommendations of the IFC (private investment arm of the WB). The people were promised that this will result in adequate and cheaper water rates.
However, the concession agreement was actually designed by the WB-IFC to ensure that local capitalists will be able to operate profitably in order to pay MWSS’ $800-million debt from the WB, Asian Development Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation, to the detriment of the people’s welfare.
The Duterte regime is shamelessly using the concocted water supply shortage to railroad the construction of the Kaliwa Dam by Chinese investors which will result in the displacement of more than 20,000 indigenous people from their ancestral lands in Sierra Madre.
Amid intensifying attacks against the right to efficient water services, the people should amplify their call to repeal the neoliberal policy of privatization which was implemented by the reactionary state to the benefit of both local and foreign capitalists. The Duterte regime has to be directly held accountable for failing to ensure sufficient and affordable water for the people and penalize the water concessionaires for their inefficient service.
In conjunction with the water supply interruption, residents carrying water buckets and pails protested in front of the MWSS office on March 12 and 15. A similar protest action was mounted by workers led by the Kilusang Mayo Uno at the Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City on March 14.
In a related news, national minorities spearheaded by SANDUGO protested in front of the Chinese Embassy in Makati City on March 14 to lambast projects that will destroy the environment and mire the country in debt including the Chico and Kaliwa Dams.