President Gloria Arroyo, who has yet to overcome the worst political crisis of her regime, is risking further isolation from the people if she would allow the planned reprivatization of the Maynilad Water Services Inc.
By Arnold Padilla
President Gloria Arroyo, who has yet to overcome the worst political crisis of her regime, is risking further isolation from the people if she would allow the planned reprivatization of the Maynilad Water Services Inc. The Water for the People Network (WPN) issued the statement as residents from Maynilad areas trooped to the main office of the water firm where it is holding its annual stockholders’ meeting.
The WPN questioned the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System’s (MWSS) plan to reprivatize Maynilad Water Services Inc. as the move would further burden the ordinary consumers, who are still reeling from last year’s record high oil prices and inflation, of miserable service and exorbitant water rates.
Citing the poor track record of Lopez-owned Benpres and French company Suez as Maynilad operators, the network said that it is very absurd that the MWSS would want to again entrust the provision of water supply and sanitation in the west zone of Metro Manila to profit-oriented private business. Aside from hiking its all-in tariff (basic rate plus other charges) by 345% since 1997, three out of every 10 people in Maynilad areas are still without water supply while in areas that are connected to the Maynilad system, water is unavailable for three to four hours daily.
Government representatives will take over six of the 12 seats in Maynilad’s board of directors in its stockholders’ meeting today. The interim board will supervise the reprivatization of Maynilad, which became 84% owned by the MWSS and 16% by Suez after a Quezon City court approved its corporate rehabilitation last year.
Residents from Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City under the Alyansa Sigaw Tubig (Cry for Water Alliance or AST), a WPN member, held a protest rally in front of the Maynilad office to denounce the rate hike that would increase their monthly bill by as much as P56 starting today. According to the WPN, the rate hike is intended to make the reprivatization of Maynilad, which the MWSS hopes to complete within the first semester of the year, attractive to potential investors. This is unacceptable for some 100,000 residents in 16 barangays of Bagong Barrio, many of whom are forced to pay the minimum monthly bill to Maynilad even if there is no water coming out from their taps.
The WPN noted that Arroyo has already mishandled the Maynilad fiasco when she allowed Benpres to get out of its contract with the MWSS without paying a centavo of its financial obligations with the government. The Maynilad bailout is Arroyo’s guarantee that Vice President Noli de Castro, a former stalwart in the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN media network, would not switch sides amid the growing clamor for her to step down.
Instead of reprivatization, the WPN reiterated its call for full and effective government control of Maynilad and the complete reversal of the MWSS privatization. Bulatlat.com