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Philippines’ Aquino: No troops against water riots

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MANILA, Philippines  — President Benigno Aquino III has scuttled a plan to deploy government troops to prevent riots or disturbances over a water shortage in the Philippine capital.

“You only bring out troops, you know, to suppress” armed groups, Aquino said on Friday.

Many in the sprawling Metropolis of about 12 million people have been left with limited supplies or no water at all this week after water levels at the Angat Dam, the main source for Manila, fell to a critically low point following a prolonged drought.

Although the situation was improving with the onset of the rainy season, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson told reporters that the government had mobilized trucks and tankers to provide water to the worst-hit areas.

He said he asked the country’s defense secretary to lend troops to ensure orderly water distribution. The local media said in some cases people muscled into long lines at water pumps or scrambled to get to water tanks.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta said earlier that about 2,000 soldiers will be deployed, but the president put a quash on that.

Aquino told reporters he had not been informed about the plan to use soldiers, and that police should be called out instead to deal with law and order issues.

“I talked to the parties concerned as to whose decision this was and I reminded them that they should consult with me before doing so,” he said. “There are certain members of the government that, shall we say, a little bit overreacted or were preparing for the worst case scenario.”

Activists have blamed the government for the recurring water problem, complaining that though the water sector was privatized in the 1990s, authorities have not pushed for better services.

“In spite of poor services by these water concessionaires, the consumers are subjected to ever increasing water rates,” said Giovanni Tapang of the activist group AGHAM.

One concessionaire, Maynilad Water Services Inc., said it was losing more than half of the volume to pipe leaks and pilferage.

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