‘Franchise review sends wrong signal to bizmen’

ILOILO City – The Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) passed a resolution calling for a review of the legality, validity or impropriety of the franchises granted to three water distributors.

For former councilor Plaridel Nava, such move is sending the wrong signal to investors.

“It gives the impression that in Iloilo City, doing business is fraught with uncertainty. Wala gali permanency. Wala guarantee. Ang tanan nga i-invest nila i-question mo lang nga i-question,” said Nava.

This March, the previous SP approved the water distribution franchise application jointly submitted by Manila Water Philippines Ventures, Inc. (Manila Water) and Tubig Pilipinas Group (TPG), Inc. 

Two months after, another franchise application was approved. It was filed by New Earth Water System (NEWS), Inc., a subsidiary of the Lucio Tan Group.

The SP also granted a water distribution franchise to Prime Water last year. 

The granting of these franchises were based in the recommendation of the SP committee on public utilities then chaired by Nava.

Nava said the latest SP move is “not legally meritorious” because “may kaso ina pending sa court subong.”

He was referring to the case filed by Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) questioning the legality of the franchise granted to Prime Water.

MIWD also previously filed a similar case against the franchise granted in 2016 to South Balibago Resources, Inc.

According to MIWD, the authority to grant a water distribution franchise belonged solely to the National Water Resources Board.

Nava said it would be better for the SP to let the court determine the validity of the franchises instead of tasking the City Legal Office to review them.

“Let us respect the judicial process. May kaso na sa korte. Ang korte lang maka-determine if ang aton akto valid or null and void,” he stressed.

The review, said Treñas, should guide the new SP when dealing with water distribution franchise applications in the future.

“We just want to be clarified. Kon makita sang City Legal Office nga wala problema, well and good. If may irregularities, the City Legal Office can guide us how we can move forward. The review is not an attack on anyone,” he stressed.

Treñas added that while the court, indeed, now has the say on the legality of the franchises, this does not prevent the SP from seeking the opinion of the City Legal Office.

“After all, it was the local government that granted the franchises,” he said./PN

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