Water concessionaires earn billions in profit amid crisis -- Atienza

October 27, 2019

A veteran congressman on Sunday said the Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. registered a combined P138 billion net profits from 2006 to 2019 despite their supposed problems in meeting their obligations to deliver round-the-clock running water to their 14 million customers and to establish sewerage systems.

“Based on our scrutiny of publicly available financial filings, we’ve gathered that Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. raked in an aggregate of P138 billion in net profits from 2006 to June 2019,” said Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) Party-list  Rep. Lito Atienza,  noting that Metro Manila’s two water concessionaires are definitely not having any difficulties producing profits for their stockholders.

“Both firms also rewarded their shareholders a combined P49 billion in cash dividends over the same period,” said Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila.

“It has become abundantly clear they’ve been making a lot of money. This is why they have no excuse whatsoever for failing to meet their obligations, including their obligation to put up adequate sewerage networks and wastewater treatment facilities,” Atienza said.

Atienza also disputed the threat made by the water firms that rates could shoot up by 780 percent, or by as much P26.70 per cubic meter, if they are forced to connect all their customers to a sewage collection, treatment and disposal system, as mandated by Section 8 of the Clean Water Act.

“There’s absolutely no need for them to jack up water rates. They’ve clearly been making a lot of money over the years, and some of those profits came from the 20 percent environmental charge and 30 percent sewer charge they’ve been collecting from customers,” Atienza said.

“They should have fully invested the revenue from these charges to build sewerage networks and wastewater treatment facilities, but they clearly chose to do something else with the money,” he added.

“In fact, over the years, they’ve invoked their need to provide sewerage networks and wastewater treatment facilities to borrow cheap funding from abroad for ‘green’ projects. We don’t know what they did with the money,” Atienza said.

The Supreme Court (SC) in August upheld a 2009 Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) order penalizing the two water suppliers and the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) with P1.84 billion in combined fines for violating Section 8 of the Clean Water Act.

Atienza himself issued the 2009 order when he was DENR head.

Until they fully comply with the Clean Water Act, the Supreme Court had said that Manila Water, Maynilad and the MWSS will have to continue to pay a P322,102 daily fine that escalates by 10 percent in two years, plus legal interest of six percent per annum.

In asking the SC to reconsider its order, the water firms had warned that water rates could hit the roof, should they be compelled to pay the fine until they complete their sewerage projects.