angat-dam-reservoirMANILA, Philippines – Two days after the observance of the World Water Day, cause-oriented groups reiterated before the Supreme Court (SC) their plea to stop the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) from privatizing the 246-megawatt Angat hydroelectric power plant (HEPP) in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

In a memorandum filed by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment Through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (Ideals, Inc.), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party and Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, the High Court was also asked to declare null and void the bidding process initiated by PSALM on 11 January 2010 for violating the Constitution, the law and due process.

According to the petitioners, PSALM acted with grave abuse of discretion when it conducted the Angat HEPP bidding without having first released required information and pursuing same in secrecy, in disregard of the people’s right to information and under circumstances that demonstrate a clear and wanton violation of the petitioners’ right to water and other guarantees under the law and the Constitution, including its national patrimony provisions.

“Petitioners thus ask this Honorable Court to safeguard the people’s right to water and to access information on government matters involving public interest and, in general, ensure adherence to the pertinent provisions of law and the Constitution,” according to the memorandum.

Respondents to the case are the PSALM, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water), First Gen Northern Energy Corporation, San Miguel Corporation (SMC), SN Aboitiz Power-Pangasinan, Inc., Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corporation, and DMCI Power Corporation.

angat-dam-hepp-markerIn May 2010, the SC had issued a “status quo ante order” against the sale of the HEPP to K-Water, the highest bidder. It later denied the plea of PSALM to lift the restriction.

The petitioners explained in their memorandum that PSALM acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction because of the following reasons:

1. When it commenced the bidding process for the Angat HEPP without having previously released to the public critical information pertinent to the sale of the public asset such as terms and conditions of the disposition, the parties qualified to bid and the minimum price, among others, in violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 1445, Republic Act (RA) 9136, and jurisprudence;

2. When it refused to divulge information related to the bidding being conducted – including significant information concerning the terms and conditions of the sale, safeguards to the public interests involved, the identity and qualifications of the bidders, especially of the supposedly successful bidder – in violation of Article III, Section 7 and Article II, Section 28 of the 1987 Constitution and jurisprudence relating to the right to information on matters of public concern and the policy of full public disclosure of all government transactions involving public interest;

3. When it pursued a bidding process that is not open and transparent and one that discriminatorily limited participation therein to private sectors, in violation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA);

4. When it overstepped its mandate and jurisdiction in unilaterally undertaking the public bidding and sale of Angat HEPP and in not offering first the sale to MWSS and NIA as an ingenious mode of transferring power generation asset, in violation of Civil Code of the Philippines and EPIRA;

5. When it allowed K-Water, a foreign state-owned corporation, to participate in the bidding process (and declared such corporation to be the winning bidder), in contravention of Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, the Water Code of the Philippines and EPIRA; and,

6. When it conducted the bidding process:
a. In the absence of effective safeguards for water security; and,
b. In a context characterized by lack/denial of access to information concerning water, undermining petitioners’ right to water and in violation of Article II, Sections 2 and 11 of the 1987 Constitution in relation to Articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article III, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, PD 1067, and RA 9136 and its implementing rules and regulations.

The Angat Dam was originally commissioned in 1967 to contribute to the supply of power for the Luzon grid. It is a multipurpose dam for hydropower, water supply, irrigation, and flood control.

More than a power generation source, Angat Dam serves a crucial function as a water source. It is the single-most important water source of Metro Manila, providing 97 percent of the water needs of at least 12 million residents of the country’s capital. The dam also irrigates some 31,000 hectares of farms across 20 towns and municipalities in Bulacan and Pampanga.

Three government entities make use of water from the Angat Dam – NIA, National Power Corporation (NPC) and MWSS. The allocation of water from the Angat Dam between these three users is further monitored by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), as mandated by Presidential Decree 424 and Presidential Decree 1067.

Expenses and responsibilities with respect to the operation and maintenance of the dam have been shared between these three users, in accordance with various agreements undertaken between the three entities and the NWRB.

The three users of the Angat Dam have separate water permits for the utilization of water from the dam reservoir.

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