We pay sewage service fee, but where’s sewer?

Published by rudy Date posted on December 30, 2008

A WHAT?: All businesses and households in Metro Manila, home to some 12 million residents spread over 620 square kilometers, pay a hefty “sewer” charge with their water bill, but most of them are not even aware of it.

This sewer charge is as unfair as the extra payment for the air that comes out of the water faucet. Only around eight percent of households are properly connected to an adequate sewerage system, but everybody pays for the non-existent service!

Note that the original government water agency is named Metropolitan Waterworks AND SEWERAGE System (MWSS), meaning that providing sewerage service is/was part of its mission.

We assume that the two private concessionaires — the Manila Water Co. (East zone) and the Maynilad Water Services Inc. (West zone) — that had taken over MWSS functions, including collection of payments, took on that responsibility.

*      *      *

STINKING CESSPOOL: No wonder Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza is talking of the urgent need for the concessioners to install wastewater treatment facilities for which consumers have been paying the past 11 years.

Atienza has ordered lawyers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to file charges against the concessionaires for failing to install the facilities as part of their obligation under their contracts.

But he is talking only of the downstream part — he is already in the murky Pasig River and the stinking cesspool that is Manila Bay — oblivious of the fact that not all consumers are physically connected to the theoretical sewer system.

Somebody has to backtrack to make sure that all paying water-users have sewage pipes that are actually connected to a proper sewerage system.

Otherwise, water-users should not be automatically made to pay a sewer charge. And any payment for non-existing facilities or services the past 11 years must be refunded.

*      *      *

NO FACILITIES: Atienza invokes a recent Supreme Court ruling requiring eight government agencies led by the DENR to speed up the cleanup, restoration, and preservation of Manila Bay. (So that is why he is talking of the bay and not of the sewer lines inland.)

He says the ruling compels Manila Water and Maynilad to rush wastewater treatment facilities in their respective areas to restore “the pristine quality” of important water bodies polluted by industrial and household wastes.

The former Manila mayor threatens concessionaires with a fine of at least P200,000 a day for the non-installation, counting from the day the SC ruling was handed down. Of course, there will be the usual haggling, as they did in the old City Hall.

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CONCESSIONAIRES: In August 1997, Ayala-led Manila Water took over MWSS operations in the East zone under a 25-year contract granting it exclusive rights to the use of land and facilities for the production, treatment and distribution of water, as well as rights to operate the sewerage system.

The East zone, home to more than five million people, comprises the cities of Makati, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Marikina, San Juan, Taguig, most parts of Quezon City, some parts of Manila, Pateros town and some Rizal cities and municipalities further east of Metro Manila.

For its part, Maynilad Water services under a similar contract a population of around 6.2 million in the West zone covering nine cities and two towns in Metro Manila, as well as a city and five towns in Cavite province.

Maynilad is now controlled by the consortium of D.M. Consunji Inc. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (83.97 percent) and Lyonnaise Asia Water Limited (16 percent).–Federico D. Pascual Jr., Philippine Star

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