Manila Water to work closely with gov’t for ‘acceptable scheme’ on arbitral award

Robie de Guzman   •   December 4, 2019   •   666

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Water Co. Inc. on Wednesday said it is willing to work with the present administration to come up with a ‘workable solution’ to the recent arbitration decision which ordered the Philippine government to pay the water firm a P7.4 billion compensation.

In a statement, the Manila Water said the compensation order, which was issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, was for acts in breach of the procedure committed by officials of the previous administration, not the Duterte administration.

The water firm made the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night slammed the water concessionaires in Metro Manila for supposedly ‘onerous’ water concession deals.

Duterte said the government was being “milked by billions” after the arbitration court demanded the state to pay Manila Water P7.5-billion, and another P3.4-billion to Maynilad Water Service for losses or damages they suffered due to rejected petitions for a rate hike.

“We wish to reiterate that Manila Water is more than willing and have started to work with the incumbent administration to come up with a workable solution to the arbitration decision,” the Manila Water said.

The water concessionaire, which serves the east zone of Metro Manila, said that before the arbitration ruling was made public, the company’s executives met with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to seek guidance, and to come up with a “mutually acceptable manner” of the award’s implementation.

The firm said this is because the case was filed due to a violation incurred by the previous administrations.

“Secretary Dominguez acknowledged our proposal to work very closely with his office to find a mutually acceptable scheme to address the award,” it said.

The utility firm stated that in 1997, it entered into a concession agreement with the Philippine government when the administration of then-President Fidel V. Ramos offered the Metro Manila concession to the private sector.

The Manila Water said it forged a deal with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to address the water crisis being felt then in Metro Manila, which they said existed due to the agency’s “incapability to maintain viable operations due to technical inefficiencies and enormous financial debt.”

“The Government unilaterally determined the terms of the agreements, which were bidden out on a take it or leave it basis,” it said.

Manila Water was one of many local and international corporations that responded to the Government’s call for a public-private partnership to solve the water crisis.

It offered the lowest fee to serve as a concessionaire of MWSS, which decided to pay the fee with the water tariff to be collected by the concessionaire. Manila Water was subsequently awarded the Concession Agreement for the East Zone, the firm said.

“Manila Water has diligently discharged its obligations as concessionaire of MWSS, spending over Php 166 billion to improve water and wastewater services,” it said.

“We have installed over 5,500 kilometers of pipes and built 2 new filter plants, 32 new reservoirs, 113 pumping and booster stations, 40 additional wastewater treatment facilities and five times more sewer network capacity to improve the MWSS facilities in the East Zone,” it added.

The firm said this resulted in the expansion of water service coverage in the East Zone from 67% coverage serving around three million people to 93% coverage serving over seven million people.

“This includes an additional two million customers from the poor and marginalized sector, who used to buy vended water in buckets or pails delivered by vendors in pushcarts,” it said.

“Manila Water services allowed them to save about 90% of what they used to pay for water. We also reduced water losses from 63% to less than 12%, saving 700 million liters per day of water,” it added. 

The water concessionaire also explained why its contract contained a provision for the adjustment of water rates.

“Because MWSS decided to pay our services and reimburse our costs with the water tariff that we collect, the Concession Agreement contains a procedure for the adjustment of water rates in accordance with the MWSS Charter,” it said.

“The Republic of the Philippines undertook to respect the procedure, which is under the full control of MWSS from beginning to end,” it added.

In 2009, the Manila Water said its contract was extended to 2037 after the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recognized the compelling need for more water and wastewater investments.

Duterte, Cabinet members pledge salaries for COVID-19 response

Marje Pelayo   •   April 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte announced he is giving his one month salary amounting to P400,000 to help in the implementation of the national government’s action plan in fight against coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Meanwhile, other members of the President’s Cabinet also have agreed to give 75% of their monthly salaries from April to December of this year as support, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo added that other department secretaries also agreed to share by giving a portion of their respective salaries.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives are targeting to raise P100-M to boost financial aid to those affected by the pandemic.

About 200 congressmen have pledged to donate their full salary for the month of May to help the government’s efforts against COVID-19.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said they are raising an initial P50-M from the lawmakers while they plan to source out the other 50-M from other private individuals and groups to complete the P100-M pledge.

Cayetano said they are set to discuss on Wednesday as to which particular government effort they would donate the fund.

Ayaw naman namin na halimbawa bumili ng PPEs iyon pala may P5-B or P2-B worth of PPEs o kaya bumili ng pagkain iyon pala may provisions na sa pagkain,” Cayetano said.

“We want to use the money where it will be most effective,” he added.

Malacanang, meanwhile, is pleased with the support from other branches of government.

“The Office of the President is pleased to know that the two other branches of the government have their own program of helping the battle against COVID-19 even as we acknowledge the support given by various heads of offices and agencies in their personal capacities to thwart the COVID-19 pandemic,” Panelo said. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

‘Dry run’ for ouster plot? Lacson urges gov’t to probe Quezon City protest

Robie de Guzman   •   April 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson is calling on the government to thoroughly look into the protest held by some residents in Quezon City on Wednesday.

The rally held by several residents from Barangay Bagong Pag-asa to demand aid from the local government prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to issue a stern warning against those who violate the law and cause trouble during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Duterte earlier told police and the military to “shoot” troublemakers if the situation puts their lives on the line. He also called for the public’s patience as the government works to deliver assistance amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“Definitely, the President’s warning to have ‘troublemakers’ during the enhanced community quarantine shot was exaggerated and harsh. But coming from this President, what else is new?” he said in a statement issued Thursday.

Police earlier voiced out suspicion that the incident may have been instigated by a left-leaning group.

Lacson, citing his background on law enforcement and intelligence, said the answer on whether the protest was “politically instigated” lies on the investigation as he has suggested to authorities.

He said the probe would show if the protest was indeed a valid “hunger-driven spontaneous act of people” out of exasperation or a “politically instigated act of violence by sinister groups” out to destabilize the administration.

“I couldn’t help but suggest to authorities to thoroughly investigate if the ‘riot’ in Quezon City involving protesters demanding aid – but in violation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine – was indeed a valid “hunger-driven” spontaneous act of people who simply lost their patience out of exasperation, or a politically instigated act of violence by sinister groups out to take advantage and destabilize the administration and duly constituted authority,” he said.

“As such, concerned authorities may opt to look into the possibility that Wednesday’s incident could be a “dry run” to test public sentiment as well as the ability of law enforcers to respond,” he added.

He said that at least one group, specifically the urban poor group Kadamay, posted an “invitation” on its Facebook page to an event scheduled for April 1.

“Muling mangalampag bukas April 1. April Fool’s Day pero ang mamamayan ay hindi na maloloko sa napakabagal at inutil na pagtugon sa pangangailangan ng sambayanan,” Kadamay said on a Facebook post, dated March 31.

Lacson, however, clarified that this is not to say that protests during the COVID-19 quarantine should be presumed as politically instigated.

“There is no saying, however, that all protests during the ECQ should be presumed as politically instigated. Yet, it cannot be denied that there may be groups with motive to exploit the volatility of the situation to advance their own political agenda,” he said.

Duterte orders OCD to manage, allocate donated medical supplies vs COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   April 1, 2020

The aid packages donated by the People’s Republic of China undergo disinfection upon arrival at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on March 21, 2020. The donation includes assorted medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and testing kits for coronavirus. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has tasked the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to consolidate and manage all medicines, medical equipment, and other supplies donated to the national government in the fight against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Duterte issued the directive through Administrative Order No. 27 which establishes the framework on the acceptance, distribution, and delivery of medicines, medical equipment, and supplies donated to the national government for operations against COVID-19.

According to the order, which Duterte signed on March 31, the OCD must prepare an inventory of all donations to the national government and the Department of Health (DOH).

It is also tasked to coordinate with the DOH, Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, and other relevant agencies in the determination of which health facilities, establishments or beneficiary groups are in need of medical supplies.

The order also states that all donations intended to address the COVID-19 situation, whether received or accepted from private companies, foreign governments, non-governmental organizations or any group or individual should be coordinated with and transmitted to the OCD for consolidation.

Direct donations of medical products and supplies to the government will still be allowed but it should be reported by the recipient agencies.

The OCD will keep a record of these direct donations in line with its authority to assess whether these items may be reallocated to other health facilities or establishments that are in greater need of the medical goods.

The Department of National Defense shall provide the necessary logistical support to the OCD for the consolidation and distribution of the donated medicines and medical equipment to identified beneficiary facilities.

Presidential Peace Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity and chief implementer of the national policy against COVID-19 Carlito Galvez Jr., will oversee the consolidation, management, inventory, recording, and distribution of donations, ensure the efficient and expeditious distribution of assistance to the public.

The OCD is directed to submit a weekly report to the Office of the President on the actions taken relative to the implementation of the order. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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