AMID WATER CONTROVERSY
Senators vow to keep ‘watchful’ eyes on monopolies
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MANILA, Philippines—Two senators on Friday vowed to keep a “watchful” eye on all monopolies that one lawmaker said have a “natural tendency” to abuse and take advantage of Filipino consumers.
“I intend to keep a watchful eye on all monopolies that, given their market dominance, have a natural tendency to abuse and take advantage of their consumers,” Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said in a text message, reacting to the reported long list of expenses that Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. had allegedly passed on to their consumers.
Aside from the P15.3 billion income taxes that had been passed on to the consumers from 2008 to 2012, the two concessionaires also allegedly added to the bills their other expenses, including those for foreign trips, entertainment and recreation, and even gifts, flowers and other marketing items.
Escudero said one of the first legislative agenda Congress should look into when it opens on July 22 is the monopoly of private water concessionaires in the country.
All monopolies, he said, must be placed under strict monitoring “to curb their tendencies to abuse consumers.”
The senator lamented that water concession has become a natural monopoly since it was left on its own to fix prices due to the lack or absence of competition.
”In any part of the country, water districts are natural monopolies. There is no free enterprise and fair competition,” Escudero said in a statement later issued by his office.
“It is but right that this industry must be placed under strict monitoring by an institution to balance the equilibrium between our consumers and these industry players,” he said.
Unfortunately, the senator said, there was no regulatory body overseeing water utilities.
But he said the Senate could scrutinize this “gray area” to put in place a mechanism that would task water utilities to serve the interest of the consumer vis-a-vis its profit margins.
”We can’t just leave monopolies on their own device and allow them to steadily earn while we consumers carry the burden,” Escudero added.
“Until definitive actions are undertaken, we must remain vigilant for the sake of our consumers,” Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said in a separate text message.
“The Filipino consumers are the most abused in the world,” Sotto added.
Senator Gringo Honasan could not agree more as he expressed his support for a Senate inquiry into the matter.
“Kailangan ng hearing para malaman kung totoo at kung ano ang magagawa ayon sa batas o kung kulang ang batas (A hearing is needed for the truth to come out and what could be done according to law or whether the law is not enough),” Honasan said in another text message.
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