Water firms should refund consumers before talking about rate hike — solons

By on January 8, 2015


MANILA — Bayan Muna Party-list lawmakers on Wednesday said the two water concessionaires in Metro Manila should first refund the billions of pesos it collected from the public for unimplemented water projects before it could talk about increase in water charges.

Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said among these are the Php 5.4-billion Angat Water Reliability and Php 45.3-billion Laiban dam projects.

“The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System-Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO) should not have approved the rate hike because the two private water concessionaires have yet to refund to their respective customers the more than Php 6 billion they have collected for unimplemented water and sewerage improvement projects, along with the dam projects,” the two solons said of the water rate hike imposed by concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad.

Manila Water corporate communications head Jeric Sevilla said the 1.33 percent increase in foreign currency differential adjustment (FCDA) will reflect a water rate increase of P10 to P20 for residential customers consuming 20 to 30 cubic meters a month.

On the other hand, West Zone concessionaire Maynilad will implement a 1.12 percent increase in FCDA. Residential customers using 30 cubic meters a month will pay P9 more.

“They have not given the public the opportunity to challenge the increase. Public information and consultation are imperative requisites that the MWSS-RO, which supposedly serves as the protector of public interest, has totally been denied to the populace,” Colmenares pointed out.

Zarate stressed that other businesses absorb business risks, and the two water concessionaires should not pass on to consumers losses due to changes in foreign exchange rates.

“But in this case, the concessionaires borrow from foreign creditors without any qualms knowing that they are insulated from the risk ordinary borrowers take because they’re allowed to pass on their forex losses to their consumers. It is like having their cake and eating it, too,” the two solons said.

The solons added that since the privatization of water utilities in 1997, Maynilad and Manila Water has increased the water rates by 600 percent.

“We hope that Congress can now call a hearing on our House Resolution No. 39 to investigate these unfair and anti-consumer practices,” they said.