A new water firm has been allowed to operate in Iloilo City.
The Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) approved yesterday, March 26, an ordinance “granting Manila Water Philippines Ventures, Inc. (MWPV) and Tubig Pilipinas Group, Inc.(TGPI), or their designated joint venture company, a [25-year non-exclusive] franchise to construct, establish, commission, operate, and maintain a water supply system [in the city]” for 25 years.
MWPV is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ayala-led Manila Water Company while TGPI is a subsidiary of Pure Energy Holdings Corp. (PEHC).
Councilor Plaridel Nava said he pushed for the entry of the new water player in response to “the people’s clamor for a better quality of water supply and services.”
“Majority of the people of Iloilo City have expressed their dissatisfaction with the current water system due to poor quality of service, recurrent water shortages, and a significant percentage of unserved areas in Iloilo City, hence the people have instead resorted to the alternative water rationing system,” Nava’s ordinance read.
Eight councilors voted in favor of the ordinance. They were Councilors Joshua Alim, Eduardo Peñaredondo, R Leone Gerochi, Liezl Joy Zulueta-Salazar, Lyndon Acap, Candice Tupas, Mandrei Malabor, and Nava.
Those who abstained were Councilors Jay Treñas, Lady Julie Grace Baronda, and Ely Estante, Liga ng mga Barangay president Irene Ong, and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation president Leila Luntao.
According to Nava, the SP, under the Local Government Code, has the authority to issue water franchises.
“Kon gapati sila sa contentions sang MIWD (Metro Iloilo Water District) nga we have no authority, may mga abogado man ni sila from topnotch lawfirms sa Manila. Gakonsulta man na sila kon bala kinahanglanon franchise sa city,” Nava said
“Kon waay kami authority nga-a marisgo sila ma-apply diri….that simply shows, gapati sila that we have the authority and you know we are willing to take the risk for the people,” he further said.
Under the newly approved ordinance, the new water player is mandated to pay a franchise fee of P1.00 per cubic meter of water sold. Its service areas include Mandurriao, Arevalo, and Molo districts for the first five years (phase 1), and La Paz, City Proper, La Puz, and Jaro districts (phase 2).
“In the long run, they (people) will [realize] that what we [is] doing right. Naga improve ang aton syudad non-stop, kinahanglan ta sang tubig,” Nava said.
The councilor disclosed that there is another firm that applied for a franchise.
“Somewhere along the way, we have to make a decision when to stop granting the franchise. Siguro after sini sang isa, I think we will put a moratorium on this. Tan-awon ta anay ang epekto sini before we proceed with other applications,” Nava said.
In January this year, MIWD slapped Mayor Jose Espinosa III and eight councilors with administrative and criminal complaints for approving Villar-led Prime Water’s franchise.
The charges, filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, include usurpation of official function, graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, grave abuse of authority, gross negligence, grave misconduct, and acts contrary to law.
The eight city councilors named as respondents along with Espinosa were Alim, Acap, Gerochi, Malabor, Nava, Peñaredondo, Salazar, and Tupas.
There’s also a pending case filed by the MIWD to nullify SBRI’s franchise to distribute water in the city.
MIWD OIC General Manager Amarylis Josephine Castro said under the Water Code of the Philippines, only the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) has the power to authorize any private water firm to operate.
“The [issuance of franchises] is delegated to NWRB and not to the [local governments],” she explained.IMT