SC urged to stop water rate hike, guarantees

Bulatlat picture water concessionaires
‘RIPE FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW’ – the actions of two water concessionaires after both tested the mechanisms in the concession agreement that could “trump” regulation and the law. (Bulatlat File Photo)

“Ginigisa talaga tayo ng mga kumpanyang ito sa sarili nating mantika, tayo pa pinabili ng bawang at sibuyas.” (They’re cooking us indeed in our own fat. And they even make us pay for the other ingredients.)

By MARYA SALAMAT

Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Amid announcements of an impending new water rate hike by water companies, calls for legal moves that would guard against such hikes are aired again by the Makabayan bloc in Congress.

Water concessionaire giants Maynilad and Manila Waters are set to adjust their rates P0.26 centavos per cubic meter for customers using 10 cubic meters, while Maynilad will charge an additional P0.15 centavos per cubic meter. The rate increases will take effect in next months’ bill, as Metro Manila gears for summer and the likely rise in water use.

Makabayan senatorial candidate Rep. Neri Colmenares asked the Supreme Court to “side with consumers” and expedite its decision for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the water rate hike.

“The Supreme Court should as well decide on the sovereign guarantee issue because why should consumers shoulder the income tax and debts of these multi-billion companies,” he added.

The said sovereign guarantee issue involves commitments made by the government to private partners or concessionaires in privatization or concession contracts it signed. From recent experiences with Maynilad and Manila Water, sovereign guarantees mean that every government-promised return, rate adjustment (to achieve such returns), and other perks such as tax incentives and leeway in adjusting pricing, will be paid by the government itself in case the private partners were prevented from realizng all or parts of these, for example in case the Supreme Court or protesters intervened.

Wanted: Consumer protection

Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap questioned, in another statement, what he calls as the Aquino government leaders’ lack of effort at seeking to protect consumers, as he noted that President Aquino “is so busy campaigning for Roxas that he forgot his mandate as the president to protect consumers from the high prices of basic goods and services.”

Both Hicap and Colmenares, who came from progressive partylist groups under the Makabayan bloc, blamed the government’s steady implementation of neoliberal policies, as marked by deregulation, privatization and liberalization, as the reason why consumers are “being preyed upon by big business vultures.”

“Ginigisa talaga tayo ng mga kumpanyang ito sa sarili nating mantika,tayo pa pinabili ng bawang at sibuyas,” (They’re cooking us indeed in our own fat. And they even make us pay for the other ingredients) said Colmenares.

Colmenares and the Makabayan bloc had previously succeeded at securing a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court against another privatized utility company’s drive to raise rates despite its already higher than allowed profit rates.

In 2014, Makabayan successfully opposed the unprecedented hike in electric rates by Meralco. In subsequent investigations, Meralco was revealed to have likely committed price manipulations in order to come out with such an unprecedented rate hike. ()

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