Groups ask MWSS: Suspend tariff adjustment of Manila Water, Maynilad
MANILA, Philippines – A petition to suspend the impending January 2020 rate adjustment of water concessionaires Manila Water Company, Inc. (MWCI) and Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI) was filed by militant groups on Monday.
According to the 38-page document submitted by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and Bayan Muna to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO), the proposed suspension is in line with issues hounding the concession agreement.
“This is a petition praying for the suspension of implementation of the January 1, 2020 tariff adjustment… pending the resolution of issues arising from their respective Concession Agreements,” the groups said.
Both militant organizations, represented by Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes and Bayan Muna leaders Neri Colmenares and Rep. Carlos Zarate, also noted that the water shortages in Metro Manila and nearby provinces are enough reason not to accept tariff adjustment.
After being forced to implement water rotation measures since March 2019, both water companies expect the same scenario in 2020 as Angat Dam — Metro Manila’s top water source — has not been filled up to its normal high level despite rains.
“Further, this Petition most respectfully submits that both MWCI and MWSI’s scheduled rate-rebasing should not proceed for as long as the water crisis in the MWSS concession area continues to persist,” the petitioners noted.
“Scheduled water service interruptions have been announced for the entire MWSS concession area due to inadequate water supply expected to last until the summer of 2020,” they added.
MWSS has approved a five-year rate rebasing period that runs until 2022, which is a total hike of P5.73 per cubic meter for Maynilad and P6.22 to P6.50 per cubic meter for Manila Water.
The increases were implemented in yearly tranches, and by January 1, 2020, Maynilad is supposed to raise its basic charge by P1.95 per cubic meter, and Manila Water by P2.00.
But just recently, MWSS-RO itself called on the deferment of the rate hikes as President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the two companies. He threatened to rescind the onerous deals, claiming that the companies have been making billions in profit since the concession agreement was signed in 1997.
Under the said deal, Manila Water was tasked to handle the east zone of Metro Manila while Maynilad took over the west concession area.
Amid these statements from Duterte, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Singapore decided in favor of Manila Water and Maynilad, mandating the Philippine government to compensate both companies.
PCA ordered the payment of P7.39 billion to the Ayala family-owned Manila Water, for losses allegedly suffered between June 2015 to November 2019. In 2018, the same court also decided that Manny Pangilinan’s Maynilad should receive P3.4 billion after government refused price increases from 2013 to 2017.
Malacañang has maintained that government would not pay the over P10 billion compensation, and would instead study the creation of new contracts.
But if government is looking for a new concession agreement, the petitioners maintained that the water services should be publicly-owned, as privatization has supposedly led to a removal of public engagement on water issues.
“Most important, the Concession Agreements have effectively removed public participation and engagement on matters relating to water distribution services. As the MWSS and its concessionaires continue to view the Concession Agreements as a mere contract between parties, the public has been effectively shut out of matters concerning water distribution services in Metro Manila,” they insisted.
“While there have been consultations during rate rebasing periods, objections by the public do not carry much weight because ultimate accountability by MWSS, MWSI, MWCI and the MWSS-RO rests not on concession area customers but solely on the provisions of the Concession Agreements,” they added.
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