Labor leader calls for review of privatization and deregulation of utilities

Published March 12, 2019, 12:10 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Chito Chavez 

A militant labor leader called on the Senate to review the privatization and deregulation of the power and water industry in the midst of the water shortage in Metro Manila and yellow alert at the Luzon grid.

With the yellow alert, the Luzon grid will be under a condition that could plunge it into brownouts.

Leody De Guzman  (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)
Leody De Guzman
(Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

Leody de Guzman of the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) said the review should lead to the reversal of corporate control of basic necessities.

“The disorderly manner the Manila Water is announcing water service interruptions, and the fact that announcements of pending El Niño were already made last year and no appropriate rationing measures were implemented, makes us seriously question the so-called competence of the private sector in the management of our public utilities,” De Guzman said.

De Guzman insisted “it is ironic that supporters of privatization schemes more than two decades ago lobbied for the sale of Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) as well as the National Power Corporation (Napocor) on the grounds of incompetence.

He also warned against power companies “who are seeking to reap super-profits from the expected decline of supply due to El Niño by pushing through unscheduled maintenance shutdowns”, adding that their maneuvers may fall under “economic sabotage”.

“Mahirap magtiwala sa pribadong sektor para i-manage ang basic needs ng mga tao, lalo pa sa panahon ng El Nino. Masyadong kritikal ang sitwasyon para isugal natin sa mga kumpanyang palpak na at tubo ang kanilang motibasyon (It is hard to trust the private sector in managing the basic needs of the public especially in this time of El Nino. The situation is too critical to risk our fate in their hands as their main motivation is profit),” he said.

Repeal EPIRA, revoke water concessionaires’ franchise

De Guzman who is seeking a Senate bid vowed to file a bill that will repeal the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 or Republic Act 9136, and replace it with a law that allows national and local governments and state corporations to actively invest in the power sector, particularly in renewable energy.

The senate candidate also promised to revoke the franchise of Water Concessionaires via a “Department of Water” law that empowers local governments and metropolitan bodies to directly operate water services and “directly links centralized watershed management with water distribution”.

He added that given climate-induced uncertainties, “the private sector beholden to shareholders interests will always be tempted to artificially constrain supply or refuse to shift to better technologies in order to increase revenues or constrain cost.”

“Climate change should push us to rethink ways we provision our needs. It is about time that power and water resources be categorized by the government as a state obligation and basic necessity and must wrest control from private firms,” De Guzman concluded. (Chito A. Chavez)