March 22, 2016

As the world marks World Water Day, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) criticized the Aquino government’s failure to adequately respond to the El Niño crisis which the group claims has significantly compromised water and food security in many parts of the country.

“This year while the world celebrates World Water Day, many parts of the country, particularly in Mindanao, are suffering from drought and dry spells. Based on forecasts from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the 34 provinces likely to experience drought this month will climb to 68 provinces by the end of April. The Department of Agriculture (DA) estimates that damage to agriculture from March 2015 is at P3.6 billion. We are already one year into an urgent crisis which should have elicited a more vigorous and comprehensive response from government, but what we have been seeing is the complete opposite” Gamboa said.

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Water consumers and anti-water privatization advocates led by the Freedom from Debt Coalition warned Pres. Aquino and Sec. Cesar Purisima of the Department of Finance (DoF) not to process the P82.44 billion compensation claim that water companies are demanding from the government on the basis of sovereign guarantees issued in connection with the privatization.

“The demand for almost P83 billion to cover the water companies projected losses is outrageous and unjust and should be rejected. Why should we pay money out of the national coffers to ensure the profits of wealthy corporations when we don’t even have enough for basic social services?” Samuel Gamboa, FDC Secretary General asked.

Following the resolution of their separate arbitration cases stemming from a 2013 rate-setting dispute, Maynilad had demanded P3.44 billion while Manila Water asked for P79 billion in compensation to recover losses arising from the arbitration controversy.

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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.

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