Manila Water marks 25 years, renews commitment to quality water and environmental services
Like the movement of water, continuous and life-giving, the journey of Metro Manila’s East Zone concessionaire Manila Water Company, Inc. has taken a similar motion.
Since its establishment in 1997, the company has maintained its mission of creating an exceptional customer experience in the provision of sustainable solutions vital to health and life.
As it celebrates its 25th anniversary this 1st of August, Manila Water acknowledges that its work will not be done without the solid alliances it has fostered. “None of these would have been possible if not for the strong collaboration and partnership through the 25 years, primarily with our regulator, MWSS, and our national and local government partners, the business community, and of course, our customers and other stakeholders,” said Manila Water President and CEO Jocot De Dios.
Prior to 1997, Metro Manila was in a serious water crisis. Illegal connections, low water pressure to no water, massive leaks, and poor customer service abound.
To address this, former President Fidel V. Ramos signed into law the Republic Act No. 8041, also known as the “National Water Crisis Act”. The Act ordered the transfer of water distribution to the private sector in 1997. Manila Water took over the East Zone concession, and started its service obligations which include water, sewerage, and sanitation.
The privatization has resulted in expanded service coverage, improved service delivery, and increase in operating efficiency. Since then, Manila Water has been working doubly hard to continuously improve its water and wastewater services.
From its 3.1 million customers at the start of operations, Manila Water’s clients has grown into seven million in 2021, reaching significant milestones such as residents gaining access to 24-hour water supply, expansion of water mains and distribution lines, and more water delivered to customers. Apart from these, systems losses or non-revenue water (NRW) was significantly reduced, from a dismal 63% of production pre-1997 to the current world-class rate of 12%. This translates to increased operational efficiency and more water saved and subsequently distributed to customers.
“Even during the height of the pandemic, we made sure to supply our customers with clean and safe water, 24/7. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we remain relentless in improving our services and infrastructure to fulfill our commitments to our stakeholders and the environment,” De Dios added.
Through the years, Manila Water’s capabilities have created positive transformations to water and wastewater system development and service delivery. It built water supply infrastructures such as the East La Mesa Water Treatment Plant and the Rizal Province Water Supply Improvement Project, central to which is the Cardona Water Treatment Plant, with one million and 788,000 household beneficiaries, respectively. It has also developed the Novaliches-Balara Aqueduct 4 (NBAQ4) Project which ensures the continuity and reliability of raw water supply.
Manila Water also aims to be the leading provider of wastewater and environmental services in the country.
With this, the company has built wastewater treatment infrastructures—including the North and South Pasig Sewer System with the Ilugin Sewage Treatment Plant, the Taguig North Sewage Treatment Plant, and the Marikina North Sewerage System Project—with thousands of households expected to benefit from efficient sewerage services and cleaner rivers and waterways in the metro.
Apart from building infrastructure, Manila Water primarily practiced community and customer engagement, seeking information directly from the ground to be able to deliver quality sewerage and sanitation service obligations to the entire East Zone concession. This initiative successfully addressed the problem even back in 1997, wherein only 3% of the population is connected to a sewerage system and 85% of Metro Manila homes relied only on septic tanks.
To sustain these efforts, Manila Water also capitalized on proactive technical solutions such as separate sewer system and combined sewer-drainage system. As of 2021, the East Zone has a total of 41 Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and two Septage Treatment Plants. With its 78 vacuum tankers, the company has also desludged more than two million households.
Water for all, convenience for all
Manila Water has always sought for business inclusion. Through its “Water for the Poor” (Tubig Para sa Barangay or TPSB) program, nearly two million people from marginalized communities were granted access to potable supply and affordable water with adequate pressure.
TPSB addresses various situations prevalent in some communities, such as the so-called spaghetti or illegal water connections, low water pressure to no water, leaks, and poor customer service in general.
“This program provides a sustainable solution to one of the common problems in various communities across the country. TPSB addresses the water needs of low-income communities while reducing systems losses or water wastage,” explained De Dios.
Manila Water will continue to empower its people with a customer-centric mindset while providing quality services and sustainable solutions for its customers. This mindset led to the birth of the Manila Water App, a simple, easy-to-use tool that provides customers the convenience of accessing their account information, transactions, and concerns on their mobile gadgets. Truly “Your App in a Tap”!
Even when its brand of excellent service is now being exported to local and international shores outside of the East Zone, Manila Water aims to continuously develop critical infrastructure, with a growth strategy focused on penetrating unserved and underserved territories in the country and beyond, through flexible business and service models while expanding and deepening services to existing business areas with more innovative solutions.
“This is anchored in our vision of becoming a global leader in providing quality water and environmental services supportive of sustainable development that help build better lives and resilient economies,” De Dios said.
As a testament to these efforts of fulfilling its mission on its way to realizing its vision, the company recently received a significant nod of approval from the International Water Association (IWA) as it recognized Manila Water as Water Company of the Year, the first from the Philippines and from any third-world country to be awarded as such.
Focusing on ESG agenda
Manila Water has also released the first series of its medium-term sustainability goals that outline its progress and plans on embedding Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) policies into the company’s business strategies.
"We have re-imagined the company with new purpose, vision and mission. We are drawing on our heritage as an industry pioneer in sustainability practices and reporting to further focus on and embed ESG into our overall business operations," said De Dios.
The company’s mid-term sustainability targets, set to be achieved by 2025, include reducing and avoiding scopes 1 and 2 carbon emission by 60% through renewable energy and wastewater treatment; building infrastructures to satisfy service commitments and improvements; and ensuring water access and security by allocating at least 15% supply buffer from expansion and additional water sources.
Manila Water already made headway with these targets, specifically on using green or renewable energy (RE). In 2021, the company utilized 13.8 million kilowatt hours (kwh) of renewable energy using onsite solar panels and purchasing RE from Open Access.
In addition to forging progress towards its environmental goal, the company formed its ESG Committee at the board level earlier this year. The CEO-led committee exercises oversight to ensure that sustainability remains entrenched in the company’s strategy, provides purpose to the day-to-day work of over 2,000 Manila Water employees, and extends to quality water and wastewater service globally.
“These ESG goals highlight Manila Water’s belief that long-term viability is dependent on management of environmental impacts and commitment to improve social outcomes in the communities we serve,” De Dios added.
Through these achievements and milestones, hurdles and challenges, plans and vision,
Manila Water continues to move forward, aiming to become a value-creating global water company which delivers world-class products and services tailored to the needs of the communities it serves.
“We will continue to explore new methods and apply new approaches to create innovative and sustainable solutions that will deliver lasting impact to our customers and the communities where we operate in,” declared De Dios.