Consumers and civil society groups led by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) called on the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System t(MWSS) to stand up to the bully tactics being employed by Maynilad and Manila Water in the on-going row regarding water rates.

“The recent announcement by Manila Water that it filed a notice of claim with the Department of Finance for the absurd amount of P79 billion is clearly aimed at intimidating the government and MWSS. This is little more than a blatant ploy to stop MWSS from disallowing the water companies’ abusive practice of passing on their income taxes to consumers,” Sammy Gamboa, FDC Secretary-General said.

Manila Water had explained that the P79 billion claim represents its estimated foregone revenue from 2015 to 2037 after an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) arbitration panel ordered it to stop charging corporate income taxes to consumers.

“Manila Water’s move is no different from Maynilad’s earlier demand for the government to compensate it for P3.44 billion in “lost revenue” from January 1 to February 28 2015 after the MWSS decided to defer implementation of a separate arbitral award which allowed it to raise its water rates. These actions further expose the many problems brought about by the privatization of water services which the people have opposed from the very beginning. Therefore if the MWSS stands its ground to protect the consumers’ interest it is sure to find the public firmly behind it,” Gamboa said.

Manila Water sought arbitration with the ICC in 2013 after the MWSS decided against an increase in the company’s base rate. But the Appeals Panel ruled that Manila Water is a public utility that cannot pass on its corporate income taxes to consumers and instead ordered a rate cut of 11.05%, equivalent to a decrease of P2.77

“FDC has always maintained that Maynilad and Manila Water are public utilities providing an essential public service. Now that the ICC arbitration came to the same conclusion, it is time to finally put this issue to rest. We fully expect the MWSS to follow through on its recent announcement that it plans to bring the issue to court for resolution,” Gamboa revealed.

FDC was one of several petitioners in 2006 who asked the Supreme Court to declare Maynilad and Manila Water as public utilities.

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