Twin revelations cropped up at Tuesday’s hearing on the water crisis in Metro Manila: the MWSS Regulatory Office (RO) isn’t living up to its role, and the MWSS Board of Trustees’ lack of technical know-how is due to the absence of a civil or sanitary engineer in the policy-making body.
Senator Joel Villanueva uncovered these facts at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Services, which sought to look into the crisis that has rendered thousands of Filipino families in the eastern portion of the National Capital Region without access to water.
“Ang trabaho po ng regulator ay mag-protekta at magpulis para sa kapakanan ng taumbayan. Klaro po na sa estado ngayon, kulang sa tapang, kapos sa aksyon, at mapurol ang pangil nila. In short, madaling lusutan!” Villanueva said in a statement. “Dapat pinu-pulis ng Regulatory Office ang galaw ng mga water concessionaires, at kung kailangan patawan ng multa, ginagawa ito agad-agad.”
“We’re also shocked when we discovered that not one single board member of the current MWSS Board of Trustees possessed a degree in civil or sanitation engineering, a clear violation of its charter,” the senator continued. “Hindi na po tuloy nakapagtataka kung bakit malabo ang sagot sa tanong kung mayroon bang long-term na plano ang ahensya para maiwasan ang krisis sa supply ng tubig.”
Villanueva cited Section 4 of Republic Act No. 6234 or the MWSS Charter, which lays down the qualifications of its board of trustees.
The provision states that the board “shall possess any one or a combination of the following qualifications: (a) duly licensed professional of recognized competence in civil engineering and/or sanitary engineering; (b) business management and finance, and law, or (c) recognized labor leader within the ranks with sufficient training, particularly in the field of labor-management relations or corporate practice.”
In the current board, six are lawyers, two retired officials from the military and police, and one engineer, according to MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco. The engineer, Merly M. Cruz, is licensed in chemical engineering.
“I think the lack of a civil or sanitation engineer in the board is one of the reasons why we are in this situation now. Kung mag-aapply nga tayo sa trabaho, hinahanapan tayo ng sapat na qualifications bago kuhanin ng kumpanya,” Villanueva said. “Dapat pong masunod ang itinakda sa batas na naglalahad ng sapat na qualifications ng MWSS Board.”
The senator also took issue with the apparent lack of teeth that the MWSS-RO showed as the office appeared to be noncommittal when asked about the imposition of penalties to Manila Water, the concessionaire for the eastern part of Metro Manila, for the interrupted water supply that started in early March.
“When you’re the regulator, you make sure that public interest is paramount. Sa pagkakataong ito, tila interes ng concessionaire ang pinoprotektahan ng RO,” Villanueva pointed out.