GOODBYE, MIWD? Consumers’ group warns vs ‘total privatization’

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January 13, 2018

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ILOILO City – Metro Iloilo Water District’s (MIWD) 25-year P12.35-billion joint water distribution venture with MetroPac Water Investments Corp. (MWIC) is another step toward the total privatization of the water district, warns a consumers’ group.

In 2016, MIWD signed a P2.8-billion joint venture with Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and formed the Metro Iloilo Bulk Water Supply. Corp. (MIBWSC). Under the agreement, MIBWSC would supply MIWD with water.

The joint venture also called for the rehabilitation, expansion, operation and maintenance of MIWD’s existing water production facilities in Santa Barbara, Iloilo.

While this setup addressed the water supply problem, MIWD still needed to fix its water distribution woes, thus it embarked on another joint venture with MWIC, a wholly-owned water infrastructure investment platform of MPIC.

According to Panay Consumers’ Alliance (PCA), private entities are now in-charge of the rehabilitation of MIWD’s infrastructures, including the management of the water pumping station in Santa Barbara, the water district’s operation up to the distribution processes.

“This is what total privatization looks like. Water supply, transmission, distribution and even the management of MIWD have been turned over to private companies,” said PCA spokesperson Lucy Francisco.

Her group believed the ongoing “word war” between Mayor Jose Espinosa III and MIWD is nothing but a smokescreen to an even larger issue of privatizing the water district.

“Their rift does not translate to better water service. Instead, both are geared towards MIWD’s total privatization, which is a burden to the people,” said Francisco.

Espinosa questioned the MIWD-MWIC joint venture and warned this could jack up the water rate. He, however, denied he had personal agenda or was lobbying for other private water companies to deal with MIWD.

“Water is a basic human right. It is the government’s duty to ensure the delivery of accessible, affordable and safe potable water to the people,” said Francisco.

PCA staged a picket outside city hall on Tuesday.

MWIC shall profit from the privatization scheme while consumers would ultimately suffer, warned Francisco.

A case in point, she said, was the privatization of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in Metro Manila.

It resulted to an increase in water rates by 357.6 percent for private water distributor Maynilad that MWSS tapped, while 414.4 percent for Manila Water (another private water distributor) in just a span of 10 years from August 1997 to January 2007.

The MIWD-MWIC joint venture sets out to achieve the following in the next five years:

* increase service coverage

* increase areas with 24/7 water supply at a minimum pressure of 10 psi

* continuous compliance with Philippine Standards for Drinking Water

* reduction of nonrevenue water (water losses)

* efficient and responsive customer service

* construction of septage treatment plant subject to the issuance of any applicable governmental approvals, and purchase of new desludging trucks

But according to Francisco, “There is no truth that services run by private companies are better than those that government runs. Panay Electric Company (PECO) is a glaring example of this.”

Worse, she added, these private companies are raking in so much profit “while the consumers suffer from their incompetence.”

PECO has been under fire for alleged erroneous or overbilling and exorbitant power rate.

“It is not true that government cannot provide for its people. If so, it is not the government of the people but only of those in power and their interests,” said Francisco.

PCA pushed for a government takeover of MIWD services and functions. It also called for transparency in MIWD’s dealings with private corporations.

“In the end, the government should be held accountable for its failure to provide one of the basic human rights that is water,” said Francisco./PN



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