House urged to recall ‘hasty’ approval of Maynilad, Manila Water franchises

August 5, 2021 Jester P. Manalastas 198 views

THE House of Representatives has been urged to recall Monday’s approval of the 25-year franchises of water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water.

Deputy speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez called on the leadership to reconsider its decision saying the bills must be scrutinized properly.

“As a deputy speaker, I am an ex-officio member of all committees. I never received an invitation to attend hearings in the committee on franchises on these two franchise bills,” he said.

He said the failure of the committee to invite its members “violates the rules of the House that hearings should be made public and that all members of the chamber and all those opposed to the measures should be invited to attend and ask questions.”

Rodriguez added that he could not understand the “indecent haste” in rushing the approval of the Maynilad and Manila Water franchises.

“People will suspect that we are taking advantage of the pandemic. We could have waited for the lockdowns in Metro Manila and other areas, including Cagayan de Oro City, to scrutinize these bills at length, since they involve tens of billions the millions of consumers will pay,” he stressed.

He pointed out that had there been public hearings or had the committee invited him, he would have asked questions on certain issues involving the interest of the government and the people affected by the water concessions.

“I would have asked responsible officials and the concessionaires why their earlier contracts were allegedly onerous against the government and consumers as emphasized by President Duterte himself? What were the onerous features and who drafted those contracts,” the Mindanao lawmaker stressed.

He said he would also like to know the provisions of the new contracts, how they are different from the old agreements and what improvements were introduced, if any.

Rodriguez said he would also like to ask if the concessionaires are now required to install sewerage systems and plants, instead of dumping wastes in Manila Bay.

“Is that part of the new contracts? What is the timeline for compliance, what are the penalties for non-compliance? We do not know because we were not given the opportunity to ask questions and cast an informed vote,” the solon added.

Another issue that Rodriguez wanted to be clarified involves wastage or what is euphemistically called systems loss, the cost of which, like in the case of electricity, amounts to billions and which is shouldered by customers.

“Why should we pay for water or electricity that is pilfered or stolen, that is lost due to leaks, negligence, inefficiency, and other causes beyond the control of the consumer? Like electricity, is wasted water subjected to the 12-percent value added tax?” he asked.