Water, water everywhere…


    WITH the arrival of Typhoon Tisoy in Southern Luzon and the Visayas yesterday, people in numerous flooded areas, including Metro Manila, will see water everywhere.

    The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a number of poems and some unforgettable verses, but one of the more popular is this — “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink…” It’s poetry about mariners and the vast blue sea, but it may well be about the availability of water – a free natural resource of the earth – to a nation such as ours which despite being in the tropics with huge swaths of rain forests incredibly suffers from lack of water.

    The coming of Typhoon Tisoy at this time of the year is a welcome development as it brought rains in Bulacan, Pampanga and the rest of Central and Southern Luzon to increase the water level at Angat Dam and other reservoirs.

    While water is all around us and is basically free, its collection in dams and distribution in pipes to our households is the concern of the government and the private sector. And since the water business is basically capital-intensive, only the big business establishments are in a position to engage in it. This is the reason why business establishments like Maynilad, Manila Water and PrimeWater are into water utilities, to serve and to profit.

    Even in the season of storms we still have water service interruptions in Metro Manila, thanks to the inefficiency of Maynilad and Manila Water. But in the provinces, our kababayans have similar problems but with another service provider, the PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp.

    This considerably new but aggressive member-firm of the Villar Group has been piling joint venture contracts with the country’s water districts and local government units, operating simultaneously in 127 cities and municipalities. With such a huge swath of territory and phenomenal expansion rate, any utilities firm would perhaps encounter service-related problems, and PrimeWater is no exception. Many consumers in the towns and cities where they operate are complaining of poor service, high water prices, even murky and turbid water. They come from Tayabas, Quezon; San Pedro, Cabanatuan, Camiling, Sorsogon City, Tarlac, San Jose del Monte, Paniqui, Dasmarinas, Cavite, etc.

    The firm’s latest move is its planned takeover of the Bacolod water service, which is being opposed by the Bacolod Water Consumers Watch and Amlig Tubig Coalition. A probe by the House of Representatives was urged by Rep. Carlos Zarate who filed House Resolution 483 to look into the joint venture agreement covering the water distribution in Bacolod.

    We believe PrimeWater has legitimately expanded its coverage, being the water provider for the robust and massive housing sector of the Villar group, but its sallies into municipal-wide franchises through JVAs with the concerned water districts should be reviewed and should pass government regulators, just like its contract with Dasmarinas City which was scrutinized by the Philippine Competition Commission.