'Hostility' at MWSS may impact search for new water source - chair
MANILA, Philippines - The head of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is worried that the "very hostile" working environment at the agency, following efforts to streamline the benefits of its employees, may affect its goal of finding a new water source for Metro Manila.
In an interview on Rappler's TalkThursday, MWSS Chairman Ramon Alikpala said finding a new water source is the agency's top priority. He said a growing rift with employees is threatening work being done on this.
"We're now seeing a very hostile staff and there's so much work that needs to be done. The question is, what kind of support can we now expect from this staff?
"We have all these infrastructure projects lined up that's necessary not for MWSS but for all the people of Metro Manila. What kind of support can we get from them in terms of work to make sure that all these projects are done properly and effectively?" he said.
Alikpala said currently, 97% of Metro Manila's water source comes from Angat Dam, which is situated near the Marikina fault line. Concerns on whether the dam could withstand a big earthquake have been raised. If anything should happen to Angat Dam, Aikpala said this could spell disaster for 15 million water consumers in the metro.
The board and employees of MWSS have traded allegations of excesses. Some employees held a protest rally this week against what they called as "excessive" allowances of the agency's board members.
But Alikpala dismissed this as a smear campaign following the board's move to slash employees' benefits.
He said, for example, salaries of drivers that went as high as P97,000 a month were cut to P38,000. Bonuses of employees were also reduced. Typically, Alikpala said, MWSS workers received 32 months of bonuses every year.
Since the board removed the "illegal" benefits, Alikpala said the agency has been able to pay off 1,000 MWSS retirees who have not been paid in the past 20 years.
Further, Alikpala said the MWSS has been able to remit P150 million in dividends to the national government and book profits of over P400 million.
"We have gotten a lot of resistance from people who have been there for decades who have been accustomed to the way things were. For minimal work they had to undertake before, they're getting all these bonuses, unjustified bonuses," Alikpala said.
The aim of the board, he said, is to create an agency that is corruption-free. This, he said, would necessitate the addition of "new blood in the MWSS, people who have a passion for change."
However, government laws do not permit the MWSS to just fire employees. Alikpala said this is why the board has increased efforts to open and maintain a dialogue with employees. But so far, the board has only been successful in reaching out to employees in the regulatory office.
He said that the agency is also closely working with the Department of Budget and Management as well as the Governance Commission for government-owned and -controlled corporations to make salaries at par with private sector, sans the illegal bonuses. - Rappler.com