Consumer group cries foul over delay in water rate cut

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2014 01:20 PM | Updated as of Mar 25 2014 01:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – Consumer Water For All Refund Movement (WARM) is criticizing government for failing to implement the water rate reduction that the state-owned Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) approved in 2013.

WARM president Rodolfo Javellana said the rate cut should’ve been implemented since no there was no temporary restraining order from the courts.

“Wala namang pumipigil sa MWSS na ilabas ang kanilang resolusyon, at malaman ng buong bayan ang resulta. Ang problema ay itinago mismo ng MWSS ‘yung resulta na kanilang pinirmahan,” he told dzMM on Monday.

MWSS are holding arbitration proceedings with Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, but Javellana said no information is being released to the public.

Javellana said the secrecy has raised suspicions that there are government officials who are opposing the rate cut.

“Kung totoo na ang gobyerno natin ay nasa Tuwid na Daan, ito ay dapat ipagmalaki ng gobyerno at sabihing, ‘Ipinagtanggol namin kayong mga water consumers, mayroon tayong rate reduction.’ Ito’y political victory sa ating mga water consumers. Nakakalungkot lang na hindi ito nilalabas,” said Javellana.

“Sa tingin namin ay mayroong pumipigil sa loob ng Palasyo sa usapan na ito,” he added.

The MWSS board earlier approved a 29.47 percent downward adjustment on Manila Water’s 2012 average basic water charge of P24.57 per cubic meter, which would be implemented in five equal tranches of -5.894 percent per year. Manila Water proposed a basic rate increase of P5.83 per cubic meter.

The board also approved a negative adjustment of 4.82 percent on Maynilad’s 2012 average basic water charge of P30.28 per cubic meter, which would be implemented in five equal tranches of -0.964 per charging year. Maynilad requested for an P8.58 per cubic meter rate hike for 2013 to 2018.

Manila Water and Maynilad have filed their respective dispute notices with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), where both challenged the rates approved by the MWSS.

The MWSS, meanwhile, assured consumers that it continues to serve the public in faithful observance of its mandate while the arbitration cases are in progress.

"There is a process provided under the Concession Agreement. This process not only covers the rate rebasing exercise conducted last year, but includes the ongoing arbitration proceedings. We want to respect that process,” MWSS acting chief regulator Emmanuel Caparas said in a statement on Monday.

"Good faith compliance is mandatory for us. We fully intend to observe the rules, protocols and requirements of arbitration,” he added.

The existing water rates remain in effect until the arbitration proceedings reach a final decision on the tariff determination.