President Rodrigo Duterte should rescind a Ramos-era executive order authorizing the privatization of water services if he is really sincere in his tirades against private water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water, a lawmaker said Saturday.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, who was first to file a House resolution seeking a critical review of the concession agreement in the 18th Congress, said revoking Executive Order 311 series of 1996 is a concrete step the President can do to reverse the privatization of water services.
“Duterte should complement his order to review the concession agreement with a decisive move to junk EO 311, which provides the basis for the privatization of the MWSS. Otherwise, he may just be positioning his favored oligarch, the Villars, to take control and profit further from the water supply needs of Filipinos,” said Brosas.
Signed in 1996 by then-President Fidel Ramos, EO 311 encourages private sector participation in the operations and facilities of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.
“The President can also make a priority measure the repeal of Republic Act No. 8041, which authorizes the government to enter into negotiated contracts for the sourcing and distribution of water supply,” Brosas added.
Duterte on Friday said the country surrendered everything—including its sovereignty—when it entered into a water concession agreement with Manila Water and Maynilad in 1997.
The President also accused the two private utility companies of “economic plunder” and insisted the government would not pay them the P10.8 billion as ordered by a Singapore-based arbitration court.
The lawmaker also questioned the “much-delayed” reaction of the Palace to the clamor of Filipino women and the people to review the highly controversial concession agreement, which has generated billions for the private water firms.
“Gabriela Women’s Party refiled House Resolution No. 19 seeking a congressional review of the water concession agreement as one of its top ten measures on Day 1 of the 18th Congress,” Rosas noted.
“We have repeatedly trooped to the MWSS and Malacañang to call for the reversal of water privatization in light of recurring water interruptions. Why is the President going ballistic against Maynilad and Manila Water only now?” she added.
“We warn Malacañang against using the public’s dissatisfaction under the privatized water services courtesy of Maynilad and Manila Water to comfortably sneak in Villar’s PrimeWater as the new water concessionaire. Instead, the government should restore the water services across the country to full public control,” Brosas said.
Two other legislators on Friday backed Duterte’s position against the duopoly of Manila Water and Maynilad.
Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said: “If the MWSS water concessionaires believe they can wave around that arbitration ruling and think the decision is like a check they can encash at the bank, they are dead wrong.”
“We in Congress will not allow these water firms to get billions of pesos in public funds for services not rendered or delivered poorly,” he added.
“Congress would have failed the country if it allows Manila Water and Maynilad to get away with their disservice to the Filipino people while denying billions from other government priorities,” Garbin said. “A thorough review of the concession agreements is necessary.”
Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera also maintained that the two water concessionaires should be held accountable for the plumetting water pressure in the metropolis.
In April, Herrera wrote Duterte and Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo to suggest ways to enforce accountability and make the water firms liable for their failures in water services delivery.