The city of Iloilo now has five water service providers.
The City Council on Tuesday, May 7, approved an ordinance granting New Earth Water System, Inc. (NEWS) a “non-exclusive” franchise “to construct, establish, commission, operate, and maintain a water supply system” in the city.
NEWS is a subsidiary of Lucio Tan’s Boracay Tubi System Inc. (BTSI).
Under the ordinance, NEWS will provide water services to the city’s six districts for 25 years.
The ordinance was sponsored by Councilor Plaridel Nava.
“Ang provisions sa ordinance are almost the same sa mga nauna ta na nga naapprove,” Nava said.
NEWS is the fourth firm to secure a franchise from the City Council.
“I think this would be the last. I already discussed this to other members of the City Council,” Nava said.
The first three firms that obtained franchises were South Balibago Resources, Inc. (SBRI), Prime Water Infrastructure Inc. of the Villar Group, and the joint venture company of Manila Water Philippine Ventures, Inc. (MWPV) and Tubig Pilipinas Group, Inc. (TPGI).
Nava reiterated that the City Council has the right to grant franchises to companies that want to provide water services in the city.
The Metro Iloilo Water District’s (MIWD), the city’s main water distributor, filed administrative and criminal charges against Mayor Jose Espinosa III and eight councilors for approving 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.
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, in a previous report by IMT NEWS, 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.
Will MIWD file another set of cases against the city officials for approving NEWS’ franchise?
“Just the previous water frachises issued by the SP, legal actions may be undertaken against the issuance and the responsible city officials,” said lawyer Roy Villa, MIWD legal counsel
But he said: “We will wait for the result of the elections. What we can be achieved by legals means may be achieved by political means.”IMT