January 11, 1992

                                                       Napocor's Sinners

        Throughout the discussions on the power shortage, the National Power Corporation has responded only with excuses for not doing what should have been done five years ago -- and with promises of what they will do in the future. In the here and now, the Napocor is firing several vice presidents and several thousand casual employees -- a sacrifice on the altar of public opinion, which does virtually nothing to alleviate the crisis.
        We have been so preoccupied with the power problem that we pay relatively little attention to the water shortage and deficiencies of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. Of course it is easier to be angry with the Napocor than with the MWSS partly because MWSS Administrator Luis V. Z. Sison -- unlike most Napocor executives  --  possesses a disarming candor that is far more refreshing than his agency's performance.  Mr. Sison is completely open about the deficiencies of the MWSS -- even to the point of admitting that the only alternative left to us is to pray.
        The other day the usually gentle Mr. Sison declared that the Napocor is at least partly responsible for the water shortage: the Napocor has been using nearly double its water allocation to generate power; worse, it has also allowed much of that water to flow uselessly into the Manila Bay.
        Last year the Napocor consumed 392,000 million liters of water a day (mld), about 196,000 mld beyond what the Napocor and the MWSS had agreed upon. That water, Sison mourned, could have been distributed in Metro Manila after it had been filtered and chemically treated in Balara.
        The wasteful ways of the Napocor have resulted not only in a cut in the water supplied to the metropolitan area, Mr. Sison added. The Water Crisis Interagency Committee has been forced to cut by a full 20 percent the water allocation for irrigation. Mr. Sison implied that the Napocor should be held responsible for any decline in farm production attributable to the lack of irrigation.
        The Napocor has thus violated the Philippine Water Code that provides that in the allocation of water, domestic consumption and irrigation have a higher priority than power generation. It turns out that the Napocor has not only been remiss in providing us with electric power; it is also taking water (even recycled water) and probably food right out of our mouths.
        The Napocor does not even have the decency to apologize for its deficiencies. It does not even acknowledge responsibility for the demand for higher rates. Instead it lets everyone blame the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for the higher rates; it is happy to hide behind the skirt of Finance Secretary Jesus Estanislao, who must explain why we must comply with this particular World Bank conditionality.
        The economic situation being what it is, most people find it extremely difficult to accept the power- rate increases -- and their attitude of rejection is amply reinforced by the Napocor's incompetence, indifference, and arrogance.
        The officials at the Napocor do not even pray -- unlike Mr. Sison, who not only prays for rain but even recommends a prayer that starts with "Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, 0 Lord, and I shall be made clean," a passage from Psalm 51, a cry of penitence that King David is said to have written after God punished him for committing adultery.
        We fear, however, that the image of the Napocor officials is so irredeemably bad that even if they publicly prayed for forgiveness and for rain, the public will still regard them as the kind of sinners Psalm 51 describes as "born in guilt, and in sin did their mothers conceive them" -- and apply to them the more earthly Tagalog equivalent.