Poe: Water franchises must ensure better services

Poe: Water franchises must ensure better services

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Sen. Grace Poe brought before the plenary for deliberation
two proposed water franchises that assure the people’s access to safe
water and improved services especially during the pandemic.

“With the grant of this franchise, nawa’y tuluyan nang dumaloy ang
ginhawa at maramdaman ng bawat Pilipino ang ‘care in every drop’,” the
chairperson of the Senate committee on public services said in her
sponsorship speech of the Maynilad and Manila Water franchise bills.

“We are for the continuity of water services and we have continuously
reiterated to our concessionaires our expectation for a better water
provider in the new normal,” she added.

The two water concessionaires have been granted concession agreements
in 1997 for the delivery of water and sewerage services.

At present, Maynilad is servicing the West Zone of Metro Manila and
the Province of Cavite, while Manila Water is servicing the East Zone
of Metro Manila and the Province of Rizal.

Last March 31 and May 18, 2021, Manila Water and Maynilad,
respectively, signed a Revised Concession Agreement (RCA) which
removes the contentious provisions found in the 1997 contract and
included provisions beneficial to the consumers.

Poe pointed out that the RCA designates the two water concessionaires
as public utilities, thus they need a congressional franchise to
operate.

Poe said that under the new agreement, there shall be a tariff freeze
until December 2022. The concessionaires are also required to provide
alternative water supply to their customers in case of service
interruption.

“Sa ilalim ng bagong kasunduan, walang pagtaas sa presyo ng tubig sa
NCR hanggang Disyembre ng susunod na taon,” she said.

“Ang mga concessionaire ay kinakailangang magkaroon ng alternatibong
water supply tuwing may scheduled interruption. Kung ito naman ay
biglaan, kailangan ay maibalik ang supply ng tubig anim na oras
matapos ang notice, at dapat ay may updates sa mga consumers ukol sa
progreso nito,” she added.

Poe said that failure to comply with these measures will penalize or
fine the concessionaires and may be considered as cause for
termination of the contracts.

“This is the first time this Committee under my chairmanship will be
granting a franchise to a water concessionaire. So for good measure,
apart from the House bill transmitted to us, we made use only of the
standard provisions in franchises that we have already deliberated and
passed on the floor,” Poe said.

This includes the standard provision on ‘Responsibility to the Public’
highlighting the concessionaire’s responsibility to comply with all of
its obligations, and to incorporate public participation in its
service.

The franchise will also be subject to revocation for failure to
operate continuously for two years.

“We recognize that the grant of franchise is just part of a bigger
solution to the water problems in the country, and that there is still
a need to tap and develop new water sources, improve water supply,
distribution and sewerage systems, and further educate people on water
conservation and climate change,” Poe said.

“Kapag naisabatas, isa itong malaking hakbang tungo sa ating pangarap
para sa ating bansa at sa lahat ng Pilipino na magkaroon ng mura at
sapat na suplay ng malinis at maiinom na tubig sa lahat ng oras,” Poe
added.

Poe also earlier filed Senate Bill 123 or the proposed Water
Regulatory Act to rationalize the economic as well as administrative
regulation of water utilities through an independent, quasi-judicial
body called the Water Regulatory Commission.

Among its functions are to set the policy for water supply, sewerage
and septage management; issue and licenses; set, review and approve
rates; review and suspend contracts; initiate investigations on erring
officials through its quasi-judicial nature; review and revoke
issuances, memoranda and the like. (ai/mtvn)

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