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MANILA, Philippines – Marikina First District Representative Bayani Fernando has called on public utilities and government regulators to show their “patriotic community sense” during a House hearing on the planning and management of public utility infrastructure in Metro Manila.
Fernando, former chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), made the appeal at a public hearing of the House committee on Metro Manila development on Wednesday, October 12, attended by representatives of public utilities, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
“[This is] not to quarrel with you but to somehow put order in things. I am calling on the patriotic community sense of everyone in here. I know you represent business interests. It’s all business for you,” Fernando told representatives of public utilities and government regulators at the hearing.
During the hearing, members of the House panel raised some concerns about the services of public utilities Manila Electric Company (Meralco), Maynilad Water Services, Incorporated, Manila Water Services, Incorporated, and telecommunications companies.
When asked about current reports or future plans regarding their services, the public utilities and regulators failed to present some of the data asked of them.
A disappointed Fernando remarked: “Wala nga talaga kayong pangarap (You really have no ambition). Have that sense of community. Hindi kayo forever diyan (You won’t be there forever). Let us tell our companies, ‘We have duties to our clients, we have duties to our people.'”
One of the issues raised against Meralco and telecoms firms during the hearing is their use of unsightly aboveground cable wires as opposed to underground cables used in other countries.
Representatives from Meralco explained that underground cables would be 10 times more expensive than using cables on electric posts, and would lead to additional charges for consumers.
Quezon City First District Representative Vincent Crisologo, for his part, asked Meralco how it pays for use of public places like sidewalks, for its electrical posts. The power utility firm said it pays “business taxes,” which Crisologo said is different from rent payment to the host city.
On the use of septic tanks instead of sewerage systems, Manila Water and Maynilad said that they charge their clients with an “environmental charge” in their billing. A “sewer charge” is included in the billing of industrial and commercial establishments that have their own sewerage systems.
During the hearing, Fernando also criticized the lack of vision from the regulators in implementing standards on the different utility companies which affect the quality of service to the public.
“Anything that they (public utilities) impose on the consumers should have the approval of the regulators,” the Marikina lawmaker said.
He suggested that such standards must be included in Republic Act No. 6541 or the National Building Code of the Philippines, as otherwise, public utilities “can impose anything.”
The House panel set another hearing to get some reports and figures that its members asked from the public utility firms at the Wednesday hearing. – Rappler.com