By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
TWO subsidiaries of Ayala Corp. secured on March 26, 2019 a franchise from Sangguniang Panlungsod to distribute water in Iloilo City.
Manila Water Philippine Ventures (MWPV) and Tubig Pilipinas Group, Inc. (TPGI) or their designated joint venture company was granted a franchise to construct, establish, commission, operate, and maintain a water supply system in the city.
MWPV and TPGI join the growing roster of water distributors in the city, which include Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD), South Balibago Resources, Inc. (SBRI), and the Villar-led Prime Water.
SBRI and Prime Water also secured franchises from the City Council.
With the approval of the SP, a non-exclusive franchise for a period of 25 years is hereby granted to MWPV and TPGI or their designated joint venture company.
Nava said the firm’s first priority and starting point of operations is Mandurriao district.
Eight councilors – Plaridel Nava, R Leone Gerochi, Eduardo Peñaredondo, Liezl Joy Zulueta-Salazar, Lyndon Acap, Candice Tupas, Mandrei Malabor, and Joshua Alim – voted in favor of the franchise ordinance.
Councilors Lady Julie Grace Baronda, Ely Estante, Jose Efrain Treñas, Liga ng mga Barangay President Irene Ong, and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation President Leila Luntao abstained.
In his committee report, Councilor Nava, committee on public utilities chair, said the company made a presentation of its proposal before the members of the City Council on November 15, 2017.
The proposal was endorsed by Mayor Jose Espinosa IIII to the Sangguniang Panlungsod for study, report, and recommendation on November 18, 2018.
According to Nava, there is no reason to deny the application of Manila Water when the same committee and council have granted a franchise to Prime Water.
“It appears that the Manila Water applied for a franchise way ahead of the application of Prime Water whose water franchise has been approved a few months ago. That being so, there is no reason to deny the application of Manila Water when this committee and the same sanggunian have granted the franchise of Prime Water, given the similarity of its application,” he said.
Based on the ordinance, MWPV and TPGI jointly proposed the implementation of a project for the provision and improvement of water supply services and the operation, maintenance, management, financing, and expansion of water supply facilities in Iloilo City.
Moreover, majority of the people of Iloilo City have expressed their dissatisfaction with the current water system, the ordinance added.
“Majority of the people of Iloilo City have expressed their dissatisfaction with the current water system due to poor quality of service, recurrent water shortages, and a significant percentage of unserved areas in Iloilo City, hence the people have instead resorted to the alternative water rationing system,” the ordinance said.
Peñaredondo also expressed support for the granting of the franchise to MWPV, emphasizing that water is one of the most important components of development.
“No city, municipality, or barangay will prosper if it lacks water. In fact, no place can progress without water,” he said.
For the longest time Peñaredondo said MIWD has miserably failed to supply the water needs of the people of Iloilo City.
“MIWD has miserably failed to perform its duties and franchise and authority that has been given to them to deliver water to its inhabitants. We can’t afford to look at this miserable situation. We have to do our duty as representatives of the people in order to promote progress to our people,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Baronda, Estante, and Treñas said they want a clear stand on the issue, particularly on legal matters.
Estante said granting of water distribution franchises is beyond the power of the SP.
“Although there is lack of supply of water but at the same it is ultra vires or it is beyond the power of the SP to grant franchise,” he said.
The three councilors said they want to be consistent as they also abstained on Prime Water’s franchise.
Peñaredondo emphasized he cannot afford to abstain and compromise the interest of the people.
“I’m also thinking of abstaining but I cannot just do it. I was voted into office to protect their interest. I cannot afford to just abstain and vote to negative. It is the interest of the people that has long been overdue that we have to satisfy the needs of people,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Nava believes that by granting the franchise, the SP will be consistent in maintaining their stand that they have vested with the power to grant franchise.
“We want to be consistent. We believe that we are granted by the law that we have the power to grant franchise,” he said.
SBRI’s franchise prompted MIWD to file two cases against the firm and the government.
The first is the case against the Iloilo City government and SBRI that seeks to nullify the franchise ordinance; second is the case against SBRI and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to revoke the certificate of public convenience that the latter granted to the former.
With the approval of Prime Water’s franchise, MIWD said it is ready to file civil, criminal, and administrative cases against the city government.