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Consumers strike down LMWD privatization plan

Management says it’s just a joint venture

TACLOBAN CITY- More than 200 water concessionaires from this city staged their demonstration before the office of the Leyte Metropolitan Water District (LMWD) to dramatize their opposition on the plan of the management to privatize the said agency.
However, the LMWD management insisted that the move is not privatization but a joint venture under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme wherein they could still have a say in the operations of the water agency.
The protestors said that they are opposing the planned privatization of the LMWD as this could bring misery to its more than 33,000 concessionaires in the form of a higher water rate.
They are also asking the management of the LMWD to turn over its management to the city government of Tacloban instead of turning it into a private company, using a recent ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) involving the city and provincial governments of Cebu on who has the right to appoint a board of director of the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD).
The High Court, on its December 2016 resolution, ruled that it is the city mayor of Cebu that has the right to appoint the board of director(s) of the MCWD and not the provincial government.
The SC issued a final ruling on this case last August 8, 2017.
“We are strongly opposing this privatization plan of the LMWD because this will surely result in a higher water rate to the detriment of our concessionaires,” Noel Tabao, president of the Tacloban Union of Barangay Officials (Tubo) which spearheaded the Friday (Dec.1) peaceful rally staged at the LMWD office in Barangay Nula-Tula, this city, said.
At present, the water rate of the LMWD is P148 per 10 cubic meters of consumption.
Aside from Tacloban, the other service areas of LMWD are Palo, Tanauan, Sta. Fe, Dagami, Tolosa, Tabon-Tabon, and Pastrana.
Tabao also assailed the “poor service” of the LMWD as several areas of Tacloban are experiencing inadequate water supply and “no water supply at all” at the northern part of the city where families who lost their houses when the city was devastated by super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ in 2013.
“If they cannot do their job well in providing water to the people of Tacloban, why not turn the management and operations of the LMWD to the city government where the majority of its member-consumers came from,” Tabao said.
As of December, 2016, out of the more than 33,000 concessionaires of LMWD, 21,028 members are in Tacloban City.
“We will not stop our demonstrations until our demand will be met,” Tabao said.
Tacloban City Mayor Cristina Romualdez wrote a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte on May 18 of this year, seeking for his intervention which includes giving the city government the right to appoint the board of directors of LMWD.
At present, the provincial government of Leyte appoints all the five members of the board which, in turn, appoint the general manager of LMWD.
Engr. Pastor Homeres, the current general manager, admitted on the plan to turn over the management of the LMWD to a private company.
“It’s not a privatization but just a joint venture under the PPP scheme wherein we will still continue to exercise our regulatory functions like the private company could not just raise the water rate without our approval,” Homeres said.
A pre-bidding conference was held attended by the representatives of bidders, Metro Pacific, Prime Resources Holding Inc., and Manila Water at the LMWD office while the rally was ongoing.
Homeres clarified that it was the Manila Water which offered to have a joint venture with them through the PPP scheme sometimes last year.
“And when the two companies learned about this proposal by the Manila Water, they also offered their proposals,” he said.
Asked on the recent Supreme Court ruling, Homeres said that they could not just apply it unless ordered by the court.
“They have first to file a case and if the court says that we have to turn the management to the city government, then we will obey it,” he said.
Homeres also said that they have opted to have a private company as a partner of the LMWD to afford its ‘development plans’ which would cost a huge amount of money.
“Tacloban is fast growing with several businesses coming in as well as Palo and Tanauan and we have to improve our services,” he said.
In 2010, the LMWD incurred a loan from the Local Water Utilities Administration in the amount of P900 million which it is paying P10 million every month since 2013.

By: JOEY A. GABIETA

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