MANILA, Philippines – The Freedom from Debt Coalition staged a protest action outside the Asian Development Bank’s headquarters here Tuesday, blaming the Bank for its role in the unabated privatization of vital public assets, including the 246-MW Hydro-Electric Power Plant (HEPP) component of the Angat multi-purpose dam in Bulacan, to private and transnational corporations.

Said protest action was part of simultaneous actions in various Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and coincided with the conclusion of the 43rd ADB Annual Governor’s meeting in Taskent, Uzbekistan. The Jubilee South – Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD) and the Campaign Network on the Right to Essential Services and Natural Resources (RTRS) declared May 4 as the “Asian Day of Action against Privatization of Essential Services.” FDC is an active member of the two campaign networks.

“The ADB bears a large share of the responsibility for the privatization of water and power services in Asia.  The experiences of communities and peoples in Asia have shown privatization of these services cause harm to peoples and the environment,” said JS-APMDD coordinator Lidy Nacpil.

She added that millions of impoverished and marginalized have much less access to safe and clean fresh water with the deterioration of the quality of service and the sharp increases in the cost of service resulting from privatization.

The ADB has been involved in privatizing water services in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.  Power privatization-related projects in Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, Indonesia, and at least nine states in India received financing from ADB.  Examples of these ADB-financed programs are Philippines’ Power Sector Restructuring Program that led to the legislation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), India’s Power Sector Development Programs, Nepal’s Melamchi Water Supply Project, and Indonesia’s Citarum Water Resources Management Project.

Job Bordamonte, FDC advocacy coordinator, warned Metro Manila consumers to expect a soar in the price of water once the sale of the Angat HEPP is finalized.

“Since the prices of National Power Corporation’s plants are usually high, private institutions recover by overpricing their generated power to be sold to the distribution utilities, such as Meralco, and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). Distribution utilities would then pass the burden to the consumers to get back what was taken away from them,” Bordamonte explained.

On April 28, Korea Water Resources Corp. (K-Water) submitted the highest bid, amounting to $440.8 million, among six qualified bidders.

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

As stated in RA 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Act (EPIRA), all NPC-owned generation plants, including Angat HEPP, will be privatized by the government.

Earlier, FDC urged the government, through Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), to stop the sale of the Angat HEPP. The group said that the sale of Angat HEPP will violate the people's right to water, jeopardize irrigation of farm lands, endanger the lives of communities living near the dam since it also serves as a flood controller, and put the job security of NPC employees at risk. (30)

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