GRIM CHRISTMAS FOR TONDO WATER CONTAMINATION VICTIMS

Residents of Tondo communities affected by the water contamination disaster in late October rallied today at the Delpan office of Maynilad Water Service Inc. (Maynilad) to protest Maynilad’s role in the gastroenteritis outbreak that killed 7 people and sent over 600 to hospitals. Residents and barangay officials of barangays 100 and 102 trooped to the Maynilad office in their area to demand that Maynilad take responsibility for the outbreak, to demand redress and seek adequate response from government following the disaster.

Led by Ka Boy Ponce, Akbayan division chairman for Manila, the Tondo victims condemned Maynilad’s neglect of the area’s pipe system and the low levels of water pressure as being the major causes of the contamination. According to Ponce, Maynilad’s assertion that illegal connections and the use of booster pumps were the cause of the contamination was grossly misleading. ” Matagal nang sira-sira ang mga tubo ng tubig sa aming lugar pero pinabayaan ng Maynilad. Ngayon kami pa ang sisisihin ni (Maynilad president) Mr. Alunan sa sakuna.”

Jomar Carlos and Junjun Parucho, councilors from barangays 102 and 100, added that they had repeatedly complained regarding the bad odor of the water and low pressure in their communities to no avail. Parucho said that while they had borne Maynilad’s water rates with little complaint, they had not received decent service from the company and had themselves fallen ill from a preventable disease that Maynilad could have averted if it performed its routine duties. “Pareho lang kami ng ibang Maynilad customer-nagbabayad din kami. Pero ano ang napala namin? Sakit at kamatayan.” Despite the demonstrable culpability of Maynilad, Carlos added, no one was being held accountable for the suffering of their communities. ” Mahigit isang buwan na ang nakaraan, magpa-Pasko na, wala pang nananagot sa sakunang dinanas namin. Mabilis maningil at magputol ng koneksyon ang Maynilad, pero sa pag-amin sa kakulangan, mukhang wala kaming mapapala.”

The rallyists assailed the formation of an inter-agency task force to investigate the cause of the outbreak as a flawed initiative by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the Regulatory Office (RO). “Bakit kasama ang Maynilad sa fact-finding team na yan? Di ba conflict of interest kung iimbestigahan nila ang sarili nila?” asked Lilia Catamora, secretary general of Akbayan’s Manila division. She stressed that a thorough, impartial probe was necessary to establish the cause of the outbreak and that such a probe was needed to render justice to disaster victims. “Wala na kaming napala sa Maynilad kundi kapalpakan at panloloko. Dapat umalis na yang kumpanyang yan dahil hindi nila kayang ibalik ang serbisyong binabayaran ng publiko. Pero dapat munang pagbayarin sila sa sakunang dinulot nila dito sa Tondo.”