By VANNE TERRAZOLA
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is now looking at “penalizing” Manila Water Company, Inc. over the water crisis in several cities of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Ty told the Senate Committee on Public Services yesterday that the regulatory agency has been studying possible sanctions to the east zone water concessionaire in relation to the terms of their agreement.
He issued the clarification after Senate President Vicente Sotto III questioned his pronouncements at the House hearing on the water issue Monday, for saying that they cannot hold Manila Water accountable due to a supposed lack of provision allowing them to impose penalties for violating its 24/7 service obligation.
Sotto particularly cited Article 10, Section 10.4 of the concession agreement which laid out the penalties for water firms for failing to meet their service obligations.
Senators Grace Poe, commitee chair, and Risa Hontiveros also raised eyebrows on Ty’s statements.
“A failure by the Concessionaire to meet any Service Obligation which continues for more than 60 days (or 15 days in cases where the failure could adversely affect public health or welfare) after written notice thereof from the Regulatory Office to the Concessionaire shall constitute a basis for the Regulatory Office to assess financial penalties against the Concessionaire,” read part of the provision.
Ty, in defense, said he only failed to articulate himself properly during the House inquiry.
“What happened was that I was trying to explain to Congress that I do not have the power to impose fines, I cannot impose fines and if you check the law, there’s no penal provision for me to impose fines,” Ty told senators.
“The fines I was mentioning is the fines, the administrative fines that other regulatory offices are empowered to do,” he clarified.
The MWSS, Ty said, usually imposes financial penalties during the mandatory rate rebasing, or the determination of new water service rates, every five years.
Such a sanction would benefit the affected consumers in the form of rebates, as also stated in Section 10.4, to “temper (rate) adjustments,” he said.
But the MWSS chief regulator assured that they will not wait for five-year period since “there is no provision that prohibits the regulatory office to do doing it earlier.”
He added that thay have already sent a written notice to the Manila Water about the move last March 8.