Officials allay fear of rate increase
BY: JOEY A. GABIET & ROEL T. AMAZONA
TACLOBAN CITY- After more than 40 years of operations as a full government-owned and controlled corporation, the Leyte Metropolitan Water District (LMWD) will now be partly managed by a private company.
This after the current LMWD officials, headed by its general manager Engr. Pastor Homeres, signed an agreement with the Villar-owned Prime Water Infrastructure Corporation or Prime Water on July 2 of this year.
The agreement takes effect this month of September.
The water agency, created in 1975 which covers seven towns and this city involving more than 37,000 member-consumers, will now be known as Prime Water Leyte Metro.
In a press conference Monday (Sept.9), officials of both LMWD and Prime Water insisted that their partnership is a joint agreement and not privatization.
Homeres said that under the 25-year agreement, the LMWD will keep the ‘supervisory and regulatory’ functions while the Prime Water was assigned to do the daily operations of the facility.
“The LMWD board will monitor and (ask for an) update (on the Prime Water operations. We will keep the regulatory and control powers,” Homeres said during the press conference.
The Prime Water, meanwhile, said that for the next 25 years, the company owned by the family of former Senate president Manny Villar, will infused P6.6 billion aim to improve LMWD’s services to its member-consumers.
Angelo Alain Flores, business development officer of the Prime Water, this early, dismissed speculations that the private-public partnership will result to an immediate increase of the current rate of P148 per cubic meter.
He said that under the agreement, any rate increase will come on the third year of operations.
By then, Flores said, some improvements that they intend to do would have been accomplished like improvement of the water treatment facilities, and increase of water supply, the most common problem among consumers to include in several parts of Tacloban where the main bulk of the agency’s 37,233 consumers are located.
“We are to support LMWD.We are here to commit and work for you,” Flores said, appealing to the consumers of the agency who could have been averse on the joint venture agreement.
Homeres said that the board has agreed that they would oppose any rate increase if they deem it not commensurate to the performance of the Prime Water which handles the daily operations of the water agency.
“It is anticipated because we are partnering with a private entity because they want to recoup their investment. But the board will oppose to any proposed tariff increase. It will go into process because we are still under LWUA (Local Water Utilities Administration),” the general manager said.
LWUA is a government agency which supervises and administers all water agencies in the country.
Judge Dominador Isidoro, Jr., assistant government corporate council, said that the consumers of the LMWD could be assured that the agreement would not place them at the disadvantage.
He said that his office reviewed the contract carefully and did not saw any items in the agreement that are disadvantageous to the consumers.
High cost that would entail further improvements of LMWD services was the main reason why they entered into a agreement with Prime Water, board member vice chairman Bernardita ‘Bering’ Valenzuela said.
She also said that the LMWD did not sold any properties to the Prime Water.
She even said that water agency will be making P70 million annually out of the leasing of some of their properties like its water treatment facilities.
Valenzuela also said that employees of the utility, to include the job order and casual workers would not be affected by the new management.
Those who availed of early retirement were paid handsomely, she said.
“Those who opted for early retirement were paid equivalent to one month salary per year of service,” Valenzuela said.