Public utility firms, such as those providing power and water, should be held accountable for their failure to render services they are expected to provide, according to broadcast journalist and independent senatorial candidate Jiggy Manicad.
The veteran reporter pointed out that the rotating brownouts now experienced in areas serviced by Meralco are a "sign of negligence."
The same is true with Manila Water, which implemented several service interruptions in parts of Metro Manila last month due to a water supply shortage, he added.
“There is a need for the government to closely monitor Meralco and other public utilities. As we have seen in the previous weeks, problems in these firms are piling up instead of winding down,” Manicad said.
Manicad pointed out that public utilities like Meralco, Manila Water and Maynilad have an obligation to provide services to the public while also taking into consideration the prices and affordability of their services.
"If we let this go, our countrymen will suffer. They’ve already given us bad service, now they want to raise their prices,” Manicad lamented, saying these companies often tend to prioritize their profitability over the best interests of their customers.
The candidate said he is inclined to support a congressional initiative to subject these public utilities to an audit by the Commission on Audit and a performance audit by a reputable firm.
"A performance audit is in order for these firms. We not only have to look at what is causing these failures in the short term, but also what we have to do in the long term to prevent any more brownouts or water shortages," he said.
Manicad posited that the management of the utility firms should have foreseen the impact of this year's dry spell.
“We have electricity shortages every year, this has been a problem for a long time. What are they doing? The government must work hand-in-hand with these firms to make sure that we are prepared even for the worst El Niños and disasters," he said.
Manicad, who is running with the intention to address poverty, hunger, and issues in the agricultural industry, lamented that the poor are the hardest hit by the supply shortages.
Apart from the obvious losses due to shortage of water or power, utility firms must also look at how these crises impact the livelihood and health of the low-income sector, he said.
“Some Filipinos have water tanks and generators to use in case of emergencies, but how about the rest of us that can’t do anything in this crisis? How about their livelihoods? Their health? We have to put our foot down and refuse to pin the blame on natural causes alone," Manicad urged.