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Despite improvements, Maynilad still losing half its water

August 6, 2010 9:05am

Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI), which serves seven million customers in the Philippine capital, has made some headway in reducing the leakages and pilferage that have been among the water company's perennial woes.

But at a time of severe water shortages, Maynilad, which serves the West Zone of Metro Manila, still loses more than half of the water it sources from Angat Dam to leaks and theft. In contrast, the Ayala-owned Manila Water Company loses just 12 percent of its water, down from 63 percent since it took over the concession in August 1997.

“Maynilad was able to cut its non-revenue water levels by as much as four percent annually," a water official told GMANews.TV. This is according to the initial results of a technical audit conducted by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS)-Regulatory Office (RO).

Maynilad has reduced its so-called "system losses," or non-revenue water (NRW) levels, which encompass both leaks and pilferage, slightly faster than its fellow concessionaire, Manila Water Co. Inc. (MWCI), during the last two and a half years.

Maynilad has brought its NRW levels to the current 53 percent from 66 percent in 2007, the year when D.M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI) and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) took over from the Lopez group as the utility’s new owners.

As of June last year, Maynilad’s NRW was at 61 percent, the company said in a statement posted on its website.

For its part, the Ayala-led Manila Water’s NRW is at 12 percent as of end-June this year, lower than end-2009’s 15.8 percent, the company said in a statement posted on its website.

Metro Manila’s East Zone water distributor “will focus on further service enhancements for its 6.1 million customers through further water recovery programs despite the already 12 percent systems loss
level from a high of 63 percent when we took over in 1997," the company’s corporate communications head Jeric Sevilla said in an email message to GMANews.TV.

Enhancements undertaken much earlier have “actually helped mitigate the impacts of El Niño," Sevilla added.

Meanwhile, Maynilad said that it is on track to meet a 40 percent NRW by 2012, a indicated by its business plan submitted and approved by the MWSS-RO.

Reduction of leaks and pilferage has been Maynilad’s “key priorities," the company said in an email message to GMANews.TV.

Besides implementing a plan to replace and rehabilitate old pipes in its concession area, the company also centralized “leak detection and repair operations under one division," the same email message said.

Maynilad’s acquisition of modern leak detection equipment and the hiring of 100 contractors have also helped “strengthen its leak repair capabilities," it said.

The company is also working on “connecting new customers in Muntinlupa, Las Piñas, and Cavite," Mark Isaiah David, Maynilad’s external communications head, said.

Despite these improvements, a non-government organization (NGO) remains unimpressed, saying that it’s the company’s duty to reduce leaks and pilferage.

“Cutting its NRW level is part of its duties in the concession contract," Freedom from Debt Coalition secretary-general Milo Tanchuling said in a text message to GMANews.TV. “After all, it is the consumers who pay for these system losses."

At the same time, water authorities said it will penalize Maynilad if it fails to meet its targets, as indicated in the concession agreement.

If penalized, Maynilad will be ordered to cut water distribution fees, an official said.

“The amount of tariff reduction will be determined at the next rate setting on 2013," the official said.

Maynilad charges P140 for every household consuming ten cubic meters of water monthly. Households consuming 30 cubic meters of water pay P600 a month.

These fees already cover environmental and foreign exchange costs.

Maynilad was previously controlled by the Lopez Group, together with a foreign partner, until it terminated its service contract with the MWSS in late 2002, citing its inability to run the business. Operations were later taken over by a joint venture between the Consunji-controlled DMCI and the Pangilinan-led MPCI.

Meanwhile, Manila Water charges P69.16 for the first ten cubic meters of water, P8.44 for the next ten, and P16.00 for the next 20.

According to its web site, "Maynilad has the responsibility to operate, maintain and invest in the water and sewerage system of the 17 cities and municipalities that comprise the West Zone.

"These areas include: Caloocan, Las Piñas, Malabon, Manila, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Pasay, Parañaque, Valenzuela, parts of Quezon City, a part of Makati, Cavite City, and the municipalities of Rosario, Imus, Noveleta, Bacoor, and Kawit in Cavite."

Manila Water serves the East Zone, home to some five million people.

The firm's web site states that the East Zone "comprises the cities of Makati, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Marikina, most parts of Quezon City, some parts of Manila, and the municipalities of San Juan, Taguig, and Pateros. It also covers cities and municipalities in the Rizal province further east of Metro Manila." - HS< GMANews.TV
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