MANILA, Philippines — Feeling the heat of the boiling water supply controversy, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has on late Saturday called on PH’s biggest water concessionaires to defer rate hikes scheduled for implementation starting January 1, 2020.
In a prepared statement, the MWSS Regulatory Office (RO) said it has initiated talks with Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc.
It also added that the office requested the water concessionaires to shelve the impending water hikes “in light of recent developments.”
Some quarters aver the “recent developments” accordingly refers to President Duterte’s outbursts last week where the Chief Executive threatened MWSS officials to have them arrested for “unduly conniving with the two overcharging water companies.”
The President also ordered the Department of Justice to come up with new water concession agreements that are favorable to the state and consumers.
Irked by this development, Malacañang also challenged the decisions of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, which allegedly directed the government to pay about P11 billion in indemnity to Manila Water and Maynilad.
Duterte retorted the Philippine government has no intention to pay the said amount and instead threatened the two companies and charge their owners with “economic sabotage.”
The MWSS is also accusing Maynilad and Manila Water as “only passing on their corporate income tax obligations to their customers.”
The DOJ also said it is seriously considering drawing up new concession agreements with the two companies which are claiming losses for the alleged “non-implementation of rate hikes in the past five years way back the time of President Benigno Aquino III.
Had the administration of Duterte did not interfere, by Jan. 1, 2020, Maynilad is supposed to raise its basic charge per cubic meter by P1.95 and Manila Water by P2.
Aside from that, the two water suppliers are accordingly allowed “quarterly water rate adjustments to account for fluctuations in the foreign currency exchange rate.”
“Manila Water, through a letter dated Dec. 3 addressed to the MWSS board, already expressed its intention to work out an arrangement on the implementation for the (rate) adjustment,” the MWSS RO said in a statement.
“Chief Regulator Patrick Ty will issue further statements once the matter has been resolved,” it said.
In September, the chief regulator explained the rate adjustments for the current rate rebasing period did not include recovery of corporate income tax (CIT), “as some consumer groups insist.”
“The MWSS ruled in the previous rate-rebasing period that the CIT should not be included (to the charges to customers),” Ty said. “The concessionaires have challenged this in court, and it is still pending at the Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., one of the most vocal Cabinet members, backed the President’s stand.
On his Tweeter account, Locsin denounced “native lawyers” and MWSS officials who prepared the concession agreements and cleared them for approval during the administrations of Presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“I want the lawyers and officials and executives who perpetrated this sovereign surrender of sovereign function to regulate to be disbarred, prosecuted and left to rot in jail,” Locsin said in his Twitter account.
“But that doesn’t mean, given the exclusivity of the concessions to bring out the water, it wasn’t unconstitutional and unethical to oust the government of its sovereign function to regulate it in the public interest. Jail the private and MWSS lawyers,” Locsin stressed.
He however offered a Solomonic approach to the water concessionaires
a way out of the “water concession scandal” saying the two (concessionaires) should negotiate “constitutional agreements in place of the rotten ones.”
“Then they throw their crooked lawyers and MWSS officials in their pay under the bus and life goes on,” Locsin said.
He also claimed officials of the (Fidel V.) Ramos and (Gloria M.) Arroyo administrations “perpetrated and perpetuated unconstitutional illegal concession agreements because they were afraid of multinational power.”
“They took huge bribes. Period,” he said before adding that only Aquino “stood up” to the concessionaires but by then “MWSS had locked in the toxic provisions surrendering the sovereign mandate to regulate business for the public safety.”
“We need to straighten out what the FVR and GMA administrations made crooked,” ends Locsin. (IAMIGO/CNS)