Members of the Freedom from Debt Coalition condemned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her shameless patronage of vested interests over the public interest.

This morning, around 400 protesters from different organizations under FDC marched to Malacañang denouncing President Arroyo’s explicit endorsement of a water rate hike both by Maynilad and Manila Water.

FDC Secretary General Lidy Nacpil scored the President for her subservience to vested interests like the Lopezes and the Ayalas, disregarding the plight of poor consumers already reeling under high power rates and increasing prices of food and foodstuff.

“Amid the people’s growing disenchantment over increases in power rates, crude oil, and LPG, here comes the President giving in to the Lopezes’ and the Ayalas’ request for a water rate hike. This clearly shows where the President’s loyalties lie,” Nacpil said.

President Arroyo gave its nod for Maynilad and Manila Water to hike their rate starting 2005. Maynilad is set to raise water rate from P19.92 per cubic meter to P26.98 per cubic meter. The rate hike comes amid unresolved issues of Maynilad’s over-recovery of purported foreign exchange losses at P4.07 per cubic meter, and the Accelerated Extraordinary Price Adjustment at P4.21 per cubic meter.

Nacpil said that Maynilad has already over-collected these amounts, totalling to more than P2 billion. “Yet the government has not lifted a finger to protect the people’s interests!” she retorted.

On the other hand, Manila Water will raise its rates by P2.18 per cubic meter starting 2005 despite its already very high profit margin that surpasses the 12 per cent ceiling imposed on public utilities. A COA audit revealed that in 1999, Manila Water posted a 40.92% profit.

Nacpil said, “The looming increase in water rates will be a clear reflection of the government’s incompetence in protecting the right of the people to clean, safe, and affordable water. When will the people be freed from the scourge of profit-hungry water corporations?”

FDC Chapters