Public Warned: Brace for Higher Water Rates, Poorer Services

The broad-based Water for the People Network has warned the public, particularly Maynilad’s customers, to brace for higher water rates and poorer services from the water firm as the approval of Amendment No. 2 to its Concession Agreement with the MWSS nears. The Water for the People Network also called on the general public to pressure the government to reject the agreement.

By Bulatlat.com

The Water for the People Network, a broad alliance of cause-oriented groups and community organizations advocating public control over water resources, has warned customers of the Lopez-owned Maynilad Water Services, Inc. to prepare for higher water rates and poorer services from the water company, in anticipation of the impending approval of Amendment No. 2 to its Concession Agreement with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

Branch 90 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC), which has jurisdiction over Maynilad’s petition for corporate rehabilitation, held its last hearing last June 1. Reynaldo Daway, presiding judge of Branch 90, is just waiting for the approval of the board of the National Economic and Development Authority of Amendment No. 2 before ruling on the petition.

Amendment No. 2 provides that the government would write off and shoulder the water firm’s financial obligations in exchange for its “reorganization and rehabilitation.” Under Clause 4.1 of the amendment, Maynilad would implement an increase of P5.65 ($0.10 based on a $1:P56 exchange rate) per cubic meter in its average basic rate, and P6.83 ($0.12) per cubic meter in its total average tariff.

Maynilad acquired the concession to the MWSS West Zone service area in 1996, when the government privatized its water services. Contrary to the government’s promises of lower water rates, Maynilad’s customers saw their water bills increase by more than 200 percent since 1996.

Fifty percent of Maynilad’s service area does not have 24-hour access to water, according to Arnold Padilla, IBON Foundation’s advocacy specialist on water. IBON Foundation, an independent socio-economic think tank, is a member of the Water for the People Network.

In a statement e-mailed over the weekend to Bulatlat.com, the Water for the People network said: “We believe that the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) board’s approval of Amendment No. 2 is already a done deal since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has publicly defended the MWSS-Maynilad agreement, heads the said government body. A shrewd political player, President Arroyo simply waited for the proper timing (e.g. after the May 10 elections) to approve the Maynilad bailout, which became a highly contentious issue during the height of the campaign.”

The Water for the People Network also called on the general public to increase pressure on the government to reject the agreement. For its part, the Water for the People Network said: “Aside from organizing mass actions in the coming days, our group would file the necessary case to the proper court to stop the deal and hold accountable certain government officials.”

“We reiterate our position that the MWSS-Maynilad compromise settlement is disadvantageous to the national government and would undermine public interest. The only favorable solution is for the government to terminate its Concession Agreement with Maynilad, and oblige the water firm to answer all its obligations to government and its customers,” the Water for the People Network asserted.

The Water for the People Network argued that “the mess created by Maynilad has exposed what is wrong with putting an essential public service into private hands.” The network also called on the government to “seriously rethink and reverse” its policy of water privatization. ()

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