MANILA — The Makabayan bloc on Tuesday called out their colleagues in the House of Representatives after it approved on final reading bills granting water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water with a fresh 25-year congressional franchise each, contrary to what a House panel did to ABS-CBN last year.
House Bills 9422 and 9423 were approved by lawmakers in just a matter of months and with minimal public scrutiny, according to ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro.
"Ikumpara natin ito sa ibang franchise bills: mas mahaba at mas mabigat ang pinagdaanan ng ABS-CBN sa buong proseso ng franchise nito kaysa sa buong proseso na niregalo sa mga oligarko ng Maynilad at Manila Water na namamayani sa business ng tubig. Their difference? ABS-CBN is not a friend of the administration," Castro said.
"Dinaan lamang sa pinakamabilis na ratsada, pinakamalabnaw na public consultation, at pinakamanipis na deliberasyon," she added.
The Manny Pangilinan-led Maynilad Water Services operates in the West Zone Service Area of Metro Manila and the province of Cavite, while the Ricky Razon-led Manila Water Company operates in the East Zone Service area of Metro Manila and the province of Rizal.
Both bills passed with 206 voting in the affirmative, 7 in the negative, and no abstentions. The bills were only filed in May this year.
In contrast, various bills seeking a new congressional franchise for shuttered media network ABS-CBN languished in the House franchise committee since 2019 until its old franchise lapsed in May last year.
Two months later, the franchise panel killed the media network's renewal bid after 14 public hearings, despite relevant government agencies testifying it did not commit any irregularities. President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly threatened to close ABS-CBN.
With the speed of the House's approval of Manila Water and Maynilad's franchise bills, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the lower chamber of Congress has become a "rubberstamp."
"Tila naging rubberstamp lang ang Kongreso dahil sa bilis na ipinasa ng mga bagong prangkisa ng Maynilad at Manila Water na hindi man lang dumaan sa mabusising deliberasyon," he said.
"Hindi nabusisi ang mga charges na ipinataw nila sa mamamayan tulad ng environmental charges mula 1997. Ganoon din ang isyu sa rate rebasing na ginagamit upang singilin ang mga konsyumer kahit sa mga proyektong hindi pa tapos," Zarate added.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas also pointed out the "bad" service of the two companies.
"No ang boto ng Gabriela Women's Party sa 25 taong prangkisa ng Maynilad at Manila Water na napakadulas na niratsada sa kapulungang ito," she said.
The approval of their franchise bills comes just months after the government inked new concession agreements with the 2 companies after the old agreements were renegotiated by the government for supposedly being disadvantageous to the public.
The bills will be sent to the Senate for final approval.