Bilyonaryo Fernando Zobel touted Manila Water Co.’s 2018 expansion in the Philippines and Thailand while admitting it flopped big time in servicing its core market in Metro Manila.
In its annual stockholders’ meeting Monday, Zobel talked about how Manila Water acquired 11 new projects across the country, covering water concession, bulk water, and septage management contracts.
“This is in line with our aspiration to steadily increase our footprint in the country, where we work to establish efficient water and used water operations, expand coverage, and improve service levels in these communities,” said Zobel.
Zobel also spoke glowingly about Manila Water’s acquisition of an 18.72 percent stake in a Thai water and distribution firm in 2018.
“This acquisition has given us a new platform to access a large customer base as well as potential business opportunities along Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor. Equally important, as we build strong ties with our partners, we will gain further insight on more value-creating opportunities,” said Zobel.
Manila Water’s rapid expansion contrasts sharply with its poor management of its biggest market, the East Zone concession area in Metro Manila, which formed the bulk of its P6.5 billion income in 2018.
President Rodrigo Duterte accused Manila Water of faking the weeks-long water shortage in the East Zone to jack up its rates further after winning the impasse on its long-delayed rate hikes last year. Duterte noted how water was immediately restored in the East Zone a day after he threatened to fire bumbling officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and to void the contract of the private water concessionaires.
Zobel said “several factors resulted in this lack of supply” which he did not elaborate though he reiterated his family’s apology for the epic fail.
“Although technically speaking the recent events in our Manila concession did not take place in 2018, I nevertheless felt that it was important to address this issue before anything else…We take responsibility for our shortcomings. We recognize the difficulties which our customers have experienced because of this incident ad we are committed to making things better for them,” said Zobel.
Zobel claimed that Manila Water has restored to 99 percent water availability in the East Zone but he qualified that this was only for the “standard of 8 to 12 hours at ground floor water pressure” which should explain the continued water interruptions in its area.
Zobel said that they have so far augmented its water supply through Cardona Water Treatment Plant and recommissioning of deep wells. He said Manila Water was discussing with MWSS on the construction of the Calawis water source to address medium water supply requirement.
Zobel also wants to “move forward” from the issue.
“Beyond the East Zone, these current realities have placed much needed urgency on the matter of water sector reform not just for metro manila but for the country as a whole. We will continue to work with government as it lays the groundwork for the sustainable management of this very important resource. In the face of this adversity, we must have strength to learn and then move forward,” he told stockholders.