Iloilo City officials face raps

Water distributor Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) stood firm on its claim that the Iloilo City Council has “no authority” to grant a water distribution franchise.

MIWD OIC General Manager Amarylis Josephine Castro, in an interview with IMT NEWS, said the City Council’s move to allow two private entities to distribute water in the metropolis was “illegal.”

The City Council approved Prime Water Infrastructure, Inc.’s franchise in Dec. last year.

In 2016, South Balibago Resources, Inc. (SBRI) also secured a franchise from the City Council.

SBRI is currently serving about 10,000 households and commercial establishments in Jaro district.

Recently, MIWD filed before the Office of the Ombudsman criminal and administrative charges against City Mayor Jose Espinosa III and eight councilors who approved the franchise of Prime Water.

Councilors R Leone Gerochi, Eduardo Peñaredondo, Liezl Joy Zulueta-Salazar, Lyndon Acap, Candice Tupas, Mandrei Malabor, Plaridel Nava, and Joshua Alim voted in favor of an ordinance granting the Villar-led water firm a 25-year franchise to “construct, establish, commission, operate, and maintain a water supply system [in the metropolis].”

The criminal charges include usurpation of official functions and graft and corruption practices while the administrative charges are for culpable violation of the constitution, grave abuse of authority, gross negligence, grave misconduct and acts contrary to the law.

There’s also a pending case filed by the MIWD to nullify SBRI’s franchise to distribute water in the city.

Castro said the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), under the Water Code of the Philippines, has the sole 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.

Castro also cited the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) legal opinion.

DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero said the application for water permit “shall be filed directly with NWRB or deputized agents designated by the Board…”

Castro clarified that MIWD is not against the entry of private firms.

“What we are questioning is the method of getting the particular authority to distribute here. They should follow what is provided by law,” she said.

“If they want to distribute, they should get the necessary authority from the Body that is authorized to act on it,” Castro added.

MIWD is confident that the cases it filed against Espinosa and the councilors will prosper.

Espinosa said he would face the cases filed against him.

Kon sagi ka lang man da abusar kag waay ka may ginahimo sa serbisyo mo, te atubangun ta na ya, we will fight up to the Supreme Court,”

The mayor told MIWD to focus on improving its services instead of suing the city government.

“If their services are okay, wala man da sang may ma-apply diri,” Espinosa said.IMT