The Freedom from Debt Coalition today hailed the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System’s recent decision to disallow any water rate increases for the entire year of 2009 as a welcome relief for Metro Manila’s 12 million residents now facing the initial tremors of a global economic crisis.

Citing statements made by MWSS Administrator Diosdado Allado, FDC characterized the decision as a long-awaited recognition by the MWSS of the “insensitivity” of any possible rate increase to “the plight of Filipinos”.

Last Wednesday, Allado announced the decision of MWSS, stating that, “We are all called upon to make sacrifices and show our patriotism in some way and we ask our concessionaires to show the same.”

FDC said that the rate hikes proposed by Manila Water and Maynilad would have been a very heavy burden to many of the Metro Manila households, had they been approved.

Word of caution

FDC, however, cautioned that the crisis should not be exploited to railroad old proposals to extend the concession contracts or to grant further allowances to the two concessionaires without closely examining other alternative solutions that may be explored.

According to FDC, current proposals and negotiations to extend the concession contracts of the two concessionaires are being held behind closed doors. They stated that details of any proposals between the concessionaires and MWSS should be revealed and that these be approached with the interests of the consumers in mind.

They stressed that MWSS should step up efforts to include civil society groups and consumers in determining the next steps to be undertaken in ensuring that the water needs of Metro Manila consumers will be adequately met.

Necessary first step

FDC Vice-President Edwin Chavez stated that the disapproval of any proposed increases in Metro Manila water rates is the necessary first step not only in mitigating the impact of the global crisis on the basic water needs of Metro Manila consumers. It is the first step as well in reviewing the actual privatization scheme implemented since 1997.

“This is an opportune time for us to look back on past rate increases and the actual performance and project expenditures of the two concessionaires which have always been used to justify the numerous rate increases implemented since 1997”, said Chavez.

“We hope that MWSS’ recent disapproval of the proposed rate increases will be but the first indicator of a renewed MWSS asserting its role and authority in protecting consumer interests.” said Chavez.

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