Holding up cut-outs of oversized dentures, members of the consumer group Pagkakaisa ng mga Tagapagtangkilik ng Tubig sa Kamaynilaan (PATTAK) and the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) converged at the offices of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage (MWSS) to dramatize their call for government to take back control of water services from private water companies.

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PATTAK and FDC issued the call as water bills are set to go up yet again following the International Chamber of Commerce-led arbitration ruling in favor of Maynilad earlier this month.

“We brought dentures because under the current privatized set-up of water services, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS-RO) has no teeth. It cannot enforce decisions in the interest of the millions of water consumers. The notion that government is regulating the water services sector is a complete sham. We signed off our regulatory options the moment we privatized water services and signed the Concession Agreements,” Sammy Gamboa, FDC Secretary-General said.

PATTAK and FDC had earlier joined other groups in launching Palag Na!, a multi-sectoral campaign against the succession of rate hikes in water and the MRT/LRT.

“It is not surprising that Malacañang has refused to intervene in the whole rate hike issue. Truth be told, they were more fearful of a ruling that affirms the MWSS decision to order rate cuts for both Maynilad and Manila Water than one which invalidates it. Following a series of warnings from the investor community that the setback suffered by Maynilad and Manila Water from the latest rate-rebasing exercise would ward off investors, it appears the P-Noy administration was only too happy to see the MWSS lose to Maynilad in arbitration,” Gamboa said.

“The arbitration provision in the Concession Agreement practically ensures that the MWSS will remain unable to exercise its power to regulate. It allows the water companies to block any decision that hurts their profit margins. Furthermore, it grants them the option to take disputes to a sympathetic venue which virtually guarantees a favorable ruling,” Gamboa said.

FDC said that the only way to recover the ability to regulate is to throw out the Concession Agreements.

"Take water services back from the corporations and then design a new arrangement where control of the concessions remains wholly or at least substantially-public. That is the only way to protect the right of consumers to a fair and just water tariff and prevent corporate abuse and endless water rate hikes,” Gamboa argued.

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