Approval of Prime Water franchise questioned

ILOILO City – The Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) could be pursuing criminal, administrative and civil charges against the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) and even Mayor Jose Espinosa III. The charges could be for usurpation of authority, graft, abuse of authority, and grave misconduct, among others, said MIWD legal counsel Roy Villa.

On Tuesday, the SP approved an ordinance granting a franchise to the Villar-owned Prime Water Infrastructure Corp. to establish, commission, operate, and maintain a water supply system in this southern city.

MIWD is, however, maintaining that the city council has no authority to grant a water franchise.
“Iya na ‘ya function sang national government. Gin-warning-ngan na sila sang Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) kag may ruling na dira ang Supreme Court consistently, not only in one case,” said Villa.

He also questioned the “hasty” approval of the franchise ordinance.

“Ano gid ang madalom nga rason? Ngaa ginsaku gid nila despite nga may warning,” said Villa.

The SP adopted the committee report of Councilor Plaridel Nava – chairperson of the committee on public utilities – recommending the granting of the franchise.

The people were clamoring for “better quality of water supply and services,” read part of the ordinance.

In his committee report, Nava cited Section 458 of the Local Government Code of 1991 which stated that the SP as legislative body shall enact ordinances and appropriate funds for “the general welfare.”

“Ang public welfare pirmi lang na ginahimo nga rason sang pulitiko,” said Villa.

In various Supreme Court rulings, he said, the “public welfare clause under the Local Government Code indi sufficient for purposes of granting a franchise with respect to water use and utilization.”

Villa also stressed that the legal opinion of the DILG dated March 14, 2018 was “off-tangent” and “irrelevant” to the Prime Water franchise application.

The DILG opinion was on the water and sanitation franchise of South Balibago Resources, Inc. which the city council granted in 2016, as a reply to Councilor Gerochi’s query.

According to the DILG, only the National Water Resources Board can issue a water and sanitation franchise. He cited Presidential Decree 1076 or the Water Code of the Philippines – the law that governed the ownership, appropriation, utilization, exploitation, development, conservation, and protection of water resources.

The SP granted Prime Water a non-exclusive franchise for a period of 25 years to service all barangays as franchise area./PN


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