QUEZON CITY – Are residents and industries of Metro Manila and outlying provinces in for a better water and sewage services and facilities in the coming years?
This looks like it as the House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the measures seeking to grant 25-year franchises to water concessionaires Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water Co. now led by business tycoon Enrique Razon. Counterpart bills will have to be approved also by the Senate.
The two companies are already servicing the metropolis and the provinces of Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan under a concession agreement with the governnment’s Metropolitan Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
The approval by the Lower Chamber came after Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water Co. signed revised water concession agreements with the MWSS which no longer include some onerous provisions such as the non-interference clause and its ability to charge corporate income tax to consumers.
During the signing of the revised concesssion agreements in May with a clearance from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Maynilad also signed a waiver terminating all related proceedings to its 2017 arbitral award which directed the government to pay P3.4 billion to the company.
Guevarra said Manila Water also signed a waiver when the revised contract was finalized on March 31, terminating all proceedings related to its 2019 arbitral award which directed the government to pay the company P7.3 billion.
Guevarra also confirmed in May that Maynilad agreed to a tariff freeze until Dec. 31, 2022 to assist poor customers and aid the country’s economic recovery after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which Manila Water also agreed to.
Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which has a majority stake in Maynilad, is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc.
The House of Representatives approved House Bills 9422 and 9423 granting a 25-year franchise to Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water Company, respectively.
Both bills garnered 206 affirmative votes, 7 negative votes, and zero abstention.
The six members of the Makabayan bloc, along with Deputy Speaker and Buhay party-list Rep. Jose Lito Atienza Jr., voted against both measures.
House Bill 9423 is titled “An Act Granting Manila Water Co., Inc. A Franchise To Establish, Operate and Maintain The Waterworks and Sewerage System In The East Zone Service Area of Metro Manila And Province of Rizal.”
House Bill 9422 is titled “An Act Granting Maynilad Water Services, Inc. a Franchise To Establish, Operate, And Maintain A Water Supply And Distribution System And Sewerage and Sanitation Services In The West Zone Service Area of Metro Manila and Province of Cavite.”
Under the bills, the Maynilad will keep its services in the west zone including the province of Cavite, while Manila Water will retain its services in the east zone of Metro Manila including the province of Rizal.
The franchise grantees shall be allowed to establish, manage, operate, repair, rehabilitate, expand, and improve the waterworks and sewerage system in the franchise area, including the right to bill and collect fees from end-users for water supply and sewerage services.
The concessionaires shall also be allowed to develop, finance, construct, install, maintain, and operate, as its operations may require, water sources, including new raw water sources, including deep wells, dams, aqueducts, tunnels, treatment plants, reservoirs, pump stations, and facilities for transmission, conveyance and distribution of water including pipelines, machineries, and other waterworks for the purpose of supplying water in the franchise area, for domestic, commercial, industrial, and other purposes.
For the public interest, the grantees shall modify, improve, or change its facilities, pipelines, systems, and equipment for the purpose of providing efficient and reliable service at reasonable costs.
The bills state that grantees shall charge reasonable and just fees for its services to all types of consumers and water users within its franchise area.