By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
Manila Water Company, Inc. (MWC) is swamped with complaints of customers receiving high water bills.
The ruckus started when several consumers received their statements of account this month, charging them almost double the amount (or more) of what they usually pay every month. The bill covered consumption for three months of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
MWC already warned earlier of the expected bill increase due to the summer heat and the household’s COVID-19 “disinfection activities”.
But many of the firm’s customers would not have any of it. They took to Facebook to express their shock and disappointment.
On MWC’s page, Hana Desah wrote: “…Sa sobrang tamad niyo magreading huhulaan niyo nalang? Never umabot ng 1k bill namin kahit nung pito pa kami dito sa bahay! Partida di pa ko araw araw naliligo nyan!!!!” (Just because you’re too lazy to read the meter, you have to guess? Never has our bill reach P1,000 even when there were seven people in the house. As an edge, I don’t even shower every day.)
Lyn Laserna commented: Aba eh doble singil sa kin eh. April bill ko – P550+ lang. Aba pagdating ng May bill – P1,000 na.” (They charged me double. My April bill was only P550. When the May bill arrived, it was P1,000.)
She said that even during the lockdown, she paid her bill every month because she didn’t want surprises. Still, she was in shock after receiving the May bill. “I have cancer. Do I have to argue just because of water? I still want to live.”
Here’s a real shocker from Bing Asuncion Arevalo: Ako po april 480 po. May 2502.52 paano ko po mababayaran yan san po nila nakuha yan kalaki…” (Mine is P480 for April. May’s bill is P2,502.52. How can I afford to pay this and how did they arrive at that amount?)
Take my case. From February 2019 to February 2020, our monthly household consumption ranged from 34 cubic meters (cm) at P831.99 to 40 cm at P1,047.42.
Suddenly in March 2020, MWC billed me P154.85 for consuming only 3 cubic meters. The billing period is from February 2 to March 2, which is pre-quarantine period.
Bah! Talking about meter-reading accuracy. Really, Manila Water? Are you suggesting that none of our household members takes a shower for that entire period?
Then, shockingly came the single bill for April, May, and June, requiring me to pay P1,748.42 (55 cm) for April, P1,643.98 (53 cm) for May, and 1,782.94 (56 cm) for June.
Really, Manila Water? Almost double the rate that I pay monthly? Are you now suggesting that I have a laundry or car wash service inside my property?
Summer has no bearing on our bill if you compare them with our consumption from April-June last year: April 2019, P1,047.42 (40 cm);
May 2019, P867.17 (35 cm), and June 2019 P972.71 (38 cm). June was the month you gave all consumers a 10-cm rebate for the service interruption.
Something is wrong here.
Remember last February when President Duterte lashed out at water providers? He emphasized that they had been “collecting money” from their customers since 1997 when onerous contracts were first signed but failed to provide them with enough water supply.
“You guys have been collecting money since (1997) to build something… and you have not even come up with a can of clean water or a canal there,” Duterte said. “So, where is the money? Where is the money of the Filipino people?”
Remember last January when the President blamed them for the heavy pollution in Manila Bay, failing to provide proper sewerage treatment plants?
Manila Water, please don’t wait for the President to threaten you again with a government takeover of the water distribution service.
The Public Assessment of Water Service (PAWS) of the MWSS Regulatory Office should address these complaints pronto.