The recent pronouncement of World Bank country director Joachim Von Amsberg sparing the government from any blame on the failed sale of 600-MW Masinloc power plant is expected of an agency that is pushing for privatization of public utilities of developing nations, an advocacy group said today.

“Who’s to be blamed?” asked Freedom from Debt Coalition secretary-general Milo Tanchuling, stressing the role of international financial institutions like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation in pushing for the privatization of the power sector through Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) in 2001.

FDC recently pushed for the reversal of the privatization program of public utilities, particularly power and water services, as it did not guarantee the consumers of lower rates and quality service.

The group pointed out that what Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) and this government have only attracted so far are “dubious investors and not really companies or participants experienced to run the power industry.”

Tanchuling also advised the World Bank to put on hold loans hinged to the privatization of public utilities and review instead its power sector privatization and restructuring program, following the Masinloc mess.

“We would like to remind Mr. Von Amsberg of the recent pronouncement of his boss, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, that the world’s poor cannot anymore rely on private sector to deliver basic services, such as power and water, and that a clampdown on corruption is a must to address global poverty,” said Tanchuling.

He questioned the decision of PSALM that awarded the bid to YNN Pacific, an allegedly dubious company with no experience in the industry and financial capacity to operate the power facility. The 2004 COA audit of PSALM later revealed that substantial bonuses were given to PSALM’s officials after the awarding of Masinloc plant to YNN Pacific.

“Perhaps they (World Bank) should investigate first the alleged corruption in Masinloc mess and the alleged pay-offs in 2000 and 2001 for the passage of EPIRA in Congress. Or better yet, they should reverse their power restructuring privatization and restructuring program,” said Tanchuling.

Von Amsberg was quoted in news reports as saying that the failed sale of the power facility “is something that I wouldn’t blame on the government.”

Von Amsberg further said that the sale’s failure poses no hindrance to the government’s ongoing privatization efforts and that they are happy that the country is still committed on power sector reforms and that it is committed to ensure the credibility of the overall privatization program.

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