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Consumers call on MWSS to implement deferred water rate cuts
Quezon City, Philippines—Protesters belonging to the consumer group
Pagkakaisa ng mga Tagapagtangkilik ng Tubig sa Kamaynilaan (PATTAK), the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and other groups today picketed the office of the MWSS-RO to demand the immediate implementation of its decision last year to slash Metro Manila water rates.
“We demand the immediate implementation of the MWSS RO’s rate rebasing determination, which ordered rate cuts for both Manila Water and Maynilad. It has been twelve months since the decision came out. Manila Water’s rate should be down by a total of 29.47% or P7.24 over the next 5 years while Maynilad’s will fall by 4.82% or P1.46. Every day that this decision remains unimplemented deprives water consumers relief from the unjust overcharging by the unscrupulous water companies ,” FDC Secretary-General Sammy Gamboa said.
FDC argued that the failure of the MWSS to implement its own decision is evidence that the Concession Agreement is heavily skewed in favor of the private concessionaires and that water privatization only serves the interests of investors.
“In previous rate-rebasing exercises, the MWSS-RO had routinely acquiesced to the demand of Manila Water and Maynilad for rate increases. In fact, in the case of Manila Water alone, the rate saw a more than an eight-fold increase from P4.02 per cubic meter in 1997 to P38.12 per cubic meter by the end of 2012, just prior to the latest rate rebasing. This time around, MWSS actually did its homework and ordered an extensive audit which led to the rate rebasing determination for a negative adjustment. Why can’t they implement it? What, or who, is stopping them?” Gamboa asked.
The MWSS-RO had deferred the rate cut after Manila Water and Maynilad sought arbitration through the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC). The Concession Agreement provides for dispute settlement through arbitration in case of disagreements between the government and the water companies.
“This whole episode further exposes the unjust nature of the Concession Agreement. If the rate rebasing exercise results in a decision which is unfavorable to the water
companies, they have a clear-cut mechanism to challenge it. In contrast, no such mechanism is available to us consumers,” Ka Mercy Donor, of PATTAK said.
By filing for arbitration, FDC said the water companies, whose abuses had been exposed in the rate rebasing process, effectively turned the tables on the MWSS.
“It is now MWSS which is under pressure after various investor groups including the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines (JCCIP) claimed the water rate cut would scare away investors. These are obvious scare tactics aimed at forcing government to abandon efforts to ensure fair water tariffs,” Gamboa added.
“MWSS must stand firm in its decision to uphold the interests of the public. They must also order the water companies to refund consumers for the many years of unjustified pass on charges. Finally, it is time to undertake a thorough review of the Concession Agreement because clearly, lop-sided in favor of the private concessionaires,” Ka Mercy said.