ILOILO CITY - The Iloilo Chapter of the nationwide campaigns and advocacy group Freedom from Debt Coalition have issued its opposition in light of the move of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and the City Government to privatize the Metro Iloilo Water District saying this move will "compromise public interest" especially that the water utility is marred by financial irregularities.   

Ted Aldwin Ong, FDC's secretary-general said, "our group has been in the sideline silently monitoring the operations of MIWD. Since 2000, MIWD have been drum-beating the issue on water shortage as a step towards its privatization but it never exposed the state of its finances. Here lies the real issue"  

FDC chairperson Romeo Gerochi explained that "the people running the operations of MIWD have been milking the water utility with millions of pesos of people's money. This is confirmed no less by the report of the Commission on Audit."  

"Its move for privatization is a way for the management to cover up the real state of its finances and escape accountability,” added Gerochi.  

In its 2002 report, the COA observed that MIWD's "Loan Account per books amounting to P600,067,131.42 does not tally with the Loan Amortization Schedule of P576,572, 280.27 or a difference of P23,494,851.15"

It was also found out that MIWD have been issuing excessive allowances to its general manager and board members for conventions and conferences.   

For instance, the MIWD sent its general manager, four members of the board including its corporate secretary to attend the Philippine Association of Water Districts (PAWD) convention at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City in January 23-25, 2002 at a cost of P24, 000.00 per participant, totaling to P120,000.00."  

The COA report decried that this amount is "excessive" and in violation of the guidelines set by National Budget Circular No. 442, which states that registration fees on conferences and similar activities must not exceed P900 per day per participant.   

Further, it states that "any amount in excess of the prescribed rate shall be at the expense of the participant" as stipulated in Sec. 6 of Executive Order No. 248 which set the amount of P300 per day as allowable travel expenses of government personnel regardless of rank.   

"Review and evaluation of the details submitted to COA, disclosed that the amount of P24,000.00 per participant paid to PAWD consisting of registration fee, transportation, and accommodation expenses, is considered excessive and not in accordance with the National Budget Circular No. 442 and E.O 248 as amended.”

Based on COA computation, the total amount could have been P43,500.00 instead of P120,000.00 or an excess of P76,000.00.  

"This is clear financial mismanagement on the part of MIWD's general manager. The City Government must instead put on hold its plan to privatize MIWD and the city council must desist from issuing resolution in support of the privatization move. Instead, we urge them to have this investigated in order to hold persons accountable of these misdeeds," averred Gerochi.   

Ong also explained "if this is how things are being done by MIWD, we are expecting the worse under the privatized set-up as per our experience in the privatization of water utilities in Manila with the Maynilad and the MWSS of the Ayalas. It will never result to the improvement of its services or the lowering of rates. Our rich background on these cases points as to where the problem really lies in as far as privatization is concerned and we were right as the COA report complemented our own assumptions that MIWD is bleeding financially."  

The FDC calls on the public to be vigilant and oppose the move of the City Government to privatize MIWD. Our experience on the monopoly and abuse of Panay Electric Company must serve as lesson on the impact of privatization to our consumers. ###

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