ILOILO City – The Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) asserted it had the power to issue a water distribution franchise.
It approved the application jointly submitted by Manila Water Philippines Ventures, Inc. (Manila Water) and Tubig Pilipinas Group (TPG), Inc. “to construct, establish, commission, operate, and maintain a water supply system for this southern city.”
The franchise given was for 25 years.
“First, we want to show that we are consistent. Second, we believe we are granted by the law (Local Government Code) the power to grant a water distribution franchise,” said Councilor Plaridel Nava, chairperson of the SP committee on public utilities.
The committee recommended to the SP the franchise application’s approval.
The SP previously granted water distribution franchises to Prime Water (2018) and South Balibago Resources Inc. (2016).
Last year, long-time water distributor in this city, the state-owned Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD), sued eight SP members for usurpation of official function, graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, grave abuse of authority, gross negligence, grave misconduct, and acts contrary to law.
MIWD claimed the city councilors who voted to grant the Prime Water franchise did not have the authority to do so. They were Joshua Alim, Lyndon Acap, R Leone Gerochi, Mandrie Malabor, Nava, Eduardo Peñaredondo, Liezl Joy Zulueta Salazar, and Candice Magdalane Tupas.
According to MIWD, the authority to grant a water distribution franchise belonged solely to the National Water Resources Board.
During its March 26 regular session, the SP stressed that the people Iloilo City needed “a more efficient water utility” capable of operating and maintaining a water supply system “that sufficiently addresses the public need…”
Five councilors, however, abstained from voting. They were Jay Treñas, Lady Julie Grace Baronda, Ely Estante, Irene Ong, and Leila Luntao. They were just being consistent, they said.
They opposed the franchise issued to Prime Water last year.
Meanwhile, its franchise stated Manila Water shall pay the city government a franchise fee of P1 per cubic meter of water sold.
Also, its service area covered Mandurriao, Arevalo and Molo districts for the first five years (Phase 1) and La Paz, City Proper, La Puz and Jaro districts for Phase 2 (from its sixth year up to the 25th year)./PN