Bayan Muna files complaint vs Manila Water

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 25, 2019   •   1774

Members of the Bayan Muna party-list

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Bayan Muna Partylist has filed a complaint at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) against Manila Water over weeks of water interruptions.

In a 20-page petition, the group wants Manila Water customers to no longer pay their bill this March. Affected residents should also receive compensation due to the difficulties they have experienced amid the water shortage.

“Ang gastos nila sa mga nakaraang linggo para lang makabili ng drum mga timba, makabili ng bottled water ay napakalaki kumpara doon sa kanilang average monthly bills, (Their expenses last week just to buy a drum of water or bottled water is too much compared to their average monthly bills)” Bayan Muna secretary general Renato Reyes said.

The group also wants the MWSS and Manila Water to conduct a public hearing where consumers can have an opportunity to be heard.

Aside from Bayan Muna, Jose Gallego a resident of Mandaluyong City also personally filed a complaint at the MWSS.

“Akala namin hanggang apat na araw lang, inabot pa kami ng isang linggo. Iyong tatay ko nga hindi na naidala sa ospital dahil dapat may therapy siya tatlong beses sa isang linggo. Ang nangyari hindi ko nadadala dito sa polymedic dahil pati polymedic walang tubig, (We thought it will only take four days, but it lasted a week. We were not able to bring our father to the hospital, he was supposed to have his therapy. It should be three times a week but even the Polymedic [General Hospital] is out of water)” he said.

MWSS chief regulator Patrick Ty said they will review the basis of the filed petition.

The MWSS and the officials of Manila Water held a meeting to determine the assistance they can provide to affected customers and whether they could suspend distribution of billing charges for March.

They also discussed about the possibility of a refund but it might still need to undergo a thorough process.

“Kasi hindi pa tayo sigurado. Ayaw kong sabihin na guilty sila baka sabihin naman ng Manila na prejudged na sila. Hindi ko po sila pine-prejudge. Klaro lang, hindi ko po sasabihin na kailangan po silang mag-rebate, pinag-aaralan lang po natin yan, (We’re still uncertain, we cannot say they are guilty. Manila Water might say they are being prejudged. I am doing no such thing. I am not saying they need to rebate, we are still reviewing it)” Ty said.

The MWSS already issued a Notice to Explain to Manila Water regarding the possibility of receiving penalty due to the water interruptions. Manila is given five days to respond.

The MWSS aims to come up with a decision by June if they will impose penalty against Manila Water or not. Meanwhile, the Manila Water still has no comment on the possible penalty or refund.—Aileen Cerrudo (with reports from Joan Nano)

Usec. Villar inhibits from review of water deals

Maris Federez   •   December 13, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar will not be joining the team that will review the contract entered into by the government with Manila Water Company and Maynilad Water Services through state regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997.

Villar on Friday (December 13) inhibited herself to dispel doubts and suspicions on the review to be conducted and the renegotiation of the government with the two water concessionaires.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he was the one who requested Villar to inhibit from the review although he deemed it unfair that the official is being subjected to allegations of conflict of interest.

“I requested Usec. Villar to inhibit herself to dispel suspicions that the DOJ contract review may not be completely objective due to an alleged possible conflict of interest. It’s unfair to Usec Villar who has always acted with professionality, but the circumstances call for it.,” Guevarra told reporters.

Guevarra reiterated that any lawyer who would look into the contract between the MWSS and the two water concessionaires would come to the same findings and conclusion — that the deal had been onerous for the government and the public.

Villar, a former Diwa Party-list representative and daughter of former national police chief Edgar Aglipay, is the wife of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar. Villar’s family runs Prime Water Infrastructure Corp. — /mbmf

DOJ denies conflict of interest in review of water concession deals

Robie de Guzman   •   December 12, 2019

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday denied allegations of conflict of interest in the ongoing review of the water concession deal between the government of Maynilad and Manila Water.

The allegations surfaced following news reports that Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar was part of the team that reviewed the water supply agreements.

Aglipay-Villar is the wife of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, whose family owns the Prime Water Infrastructure Corporation, one of the utility firms that may possibly become a player to replace Maynilad and Manila Water when their contract ends in 2022.

Guevarra said he does not know where these kinds of allegations came from. He also said that he led the review of water deals.

“Siyempre as SOJ, ako ang head ng review team at ginagamit ko diyan, nag-assist ng review, naturally legal staff ng DOJ. Sa office ng state counsel so sila ang nag-review niyan with the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel. So, yung units na yun, nagkataon lang under the supervision ni Usec. Emmeline Villar kasi may mga distribution ng work ng ng mga usecs ng DOJ,” he told reporters in an event in Manila Thursday morning.

Guevarra said the DOJ team found onerous provisions in the contracts signed in 1997 and recommended its removal as well as the crafting of new deal that would be advantageous to the public.

“Believe me when I say that any good lawyer will see the inequitable provisions in the water concession agreements, and the fact the Usec. Emmeline Villar is part of the DOJ review team is totally irrelevant,” he said.

Aglipay-Villar, a former congresswoman, also denied the allegations, adding that the DOJ conducted a disinterested review of the concession agreements.  – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

Duterte paving the way for allies into the water industry? Nonsense! – Malacañang

Marje Pelayo   •   December 12, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang vehemently denied alleged reason behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s rants against water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water.

Reports alleged that the Chief Executive is making a move to place his allies into the water industry.

“That’s nonsense. Si Presidente pa, walang ally-ally kay Presidente (That’s nonsense. Knowing the President, he doesn’t care for allies),” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

The President earlier warned to file charges of economic sabotage against the two firms and their cohorts who were behind what he calls as onerous water concession agreements.

Such was his reaction after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore favored the water concessionaires against the government, ordering it to pay billions for not approving water rate increase under the previous administration.

The Palace scrutinized what seemed to be ‘unfair’ provisions of the water concession agreement including allegations that the government was giving the water concessionaires a cold shoulder and the intent to extend the agreement up to 2037 even prior to the contract’s expiration.

Malacañang opened the idea of a possible government take over only to ensure that water distribution service would not be cut in case none in the private sector intends to handle it.

“Initially government muna then most likely after that there will be biddings for a private company to take over,” Panelo said.

It was in 1997 when the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) signed water concession contracts with Manila Water Services Inc. and Maynilad.

It was a decision made after the government-owned facility delivered poor services and only a few investors were willing to invest their billions in improving the facility’s services which, Manila Water and Maynilad accepted through a bidding. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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