Nationalize water services; don’t pass it to oligarchs — Bayan Muna
MANILA, Philippines — Opposition party-list Bayan Muna renewed Monday its call for the government take-over of the country’s water services amid Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Company, Inc.’s apparent “inefficiency and super-profiteering.”
“We reiterate our stand that what the government needs to do in the face of Maynilad and Manila Water’s inefficiency and super-profiteering is to take over water services. To nationalize it, not just pass it on to another oligarch,” Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, one of Bayan Muna’s representatives in the House said in a statement.
“Nationalization of water services ang solusyon dito, hindi (The solution here is the nationalization of water services and not the) transfer of control to his crony, not Villarization,” he added.
The congressman issued the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech Tuesday, lauded the Villars, who own water utility firm PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp. and hinted their possible takeover of the capital region’s water supply system. But Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo has denied that Duterte is pressuring the two water firms in favor of his allies.
Nonetheless, the member of the Makabayan bloc agrees that the current concessionaires “have been milking billions from Filipinos” where Maynilad had hiked the cost of water by “596 percent,” and Manila Water by “970 percent.”
But Gaite warned that PrimeWater’s consumers have been “complaining of very expensive but poor services.” The water company owned by billionaire and former Sen. Manny Villar already has control of 63 local water districts through its 25-year partnership agreements with them, according to Gaite.
“In San Pablo, the Water District Employees Association president reported that consumers now pay almost P1,200 per month, up from P400 before PrimeWater came in, but recently they have been experiencing extreme water shortage,” the lawmaker said.
“Even the Commission on Audit flagged PrimeWater’s inefficiency. We already asked Congress to investigate this new wave of privatization that is targetting local water districts,” he added.
Under former President Fidel V. Ramos’ campaign of privatization, Manila Water, a subsidiary of Ayala Corporation, won the concession contract for the Eastern half of Metro Manila, and Maynilad, then owned by the Lopez (Benpres) Group, was awarded Western Manila.
The Makabayan bloc earlier filed House Resolution No. 571 asking for a congressional review of the agreements between the government and the two concessionaires.
It also filed House Resolution 10 urging the House, through the committee on government enterprise and privatization, to investigate, in aid of legislation, the privatization of water utilities in the different parts of the country, particularly the privatization of Metropolitan Water Works And Sewerage System and the local water districts, and its impact to the provision of services and security of tenure of water districts employees.
The current concessionaires drew the ire of Duterte after Manila Water won its case against the government before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore for blocking its water rate hikes. The Court had also asked the government to pay P7.4 billion to Manila Water, which Duterte said they would not honor.
The Chief Executive also threatened to sue the two concessionaires over the some “onerous provisions” in their agreement with the government.
Edited by JE
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