Espinosa girds for long legal battle vs MIWD

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ILOILO City – Mayor Jose Espinosa III shrugged off the criminal and administrative complaints filed by Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) over the city government’s issuance of a water distribution franchise to the Villar-owned Prime Water Infrastructure Corp. “We will fight the charges up to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Espinosa insisted Prime Water’s franchise had legal basis and cited as example “almost all cities sa bilog nga Pilipinas nga ang local governments nagahatag sang nonexclusive franchises sa tubig.”

The mayor then turned the tables MIWD. “If its service is okay, no interested party would apply for a water distribution franchise to operate in Iloilo City and residents won’t be complaining of having no water,” he said.

Instead of suing the city government it would be better for MIWD to focus on improving its service, stressed Espinosa.

“Sagi ka man lang dira ‘ya akusar-akusar, wala ka man may ginahimo sa serbisyo mo,” said the mayor.

Why, even city hall has no water from MIWD, lamented Espinosa.

Aside from Espinosa, MIWD also sued the city councilors who voted to grant Prime Water a franchise on Dec. 11, 2018. They were Joshua Alim, Lyndon Acap, R Leone Gerochi, Mandrie Malabor, Plaridel Nava, Eduardo Peñaredondo, Liezl Joy Zulueta Salazar, and Candice Magdalane Tupas.

Another company has applied for a water distribution franchise – Manila Water Philippine Ventures (MWPV) and the SP may likely approve it, too.

MWPV is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ayala-led water industry leader, Manila Water Company. It actually applied for a water distribution franchise in 2017 yet, way ahead of Prime Water that applied only in 2018.

MWPV particularly wanted to operate in the districts of Mandurriao, Molo and Arevalo.

“Okay gid ako basta masolbar lang ang water distribution and supply problem,” said Espinosa.

In 2016, the city government granted a water and sanitation franchise to South Balibago Resources, Inc. to operate in Jaro district.

“Pila lang ka distrito ang may tubig diri sa aton subong, daw isa lang ka distrito. Diri sa City Proper nag amo lang ‘ni edad ko waay ko ka tilaw shower sa balay kay asta subong wala pa tubig,” said Espinosa.

The charges filed by MIWD against Espinosa and the eight city councillors at the Office of the Ombudsman were 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.

According to the MIWD, the city government of Iloilo had no authority to grant a water franchise. This power belonged solely to the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), it stressed, citing the case City of Batangas vs Philippine Shell Corp. and Shell Philippine Exploration. 

The Supreme Court ruled that the Water Code of the Philippines governed the ownership, appropriation, utilization, exploitation, development, conservation and protection of water resources, and the government’s power to control and regulate these water resources rested with the NWRB, according to MIWD.

MIWD’s service areas include Iloilo City and the Iloilo municipalities of Pavia, Oton, Maasin, Cabatuan, Santa Barbara, Leganes, and San Miguel./PN

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