By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers considered on Sunday, February 2 as a boon for the 16 million customers the involvement of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the government’s crafting of a new water concession agreement with Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Company.
Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel and Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Mike Defensor joined Albay Rep. Joey Salceda in welcoming the ADB as “a good-faith partner” of the Duterte government that the terms of the new water concession deal will be “equitable and efficient.”
“I think the entry of ADB in the crafting of a new agreement is a welcome development. They are in a better position in giving inputs in the new agreement considering they have access to data of similar concessions in other countries,” Pimentel told the Manila Bulletin in a text message.
“Anyway, the President will still have the final decision whatever proposals they give,” he added.
Citing information relayed by Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier disclosed that certain ADB consultants would help address President Duterte’s concerns on the alleged “onerous and disadvantageous” provisions of the water concession pacts signed in 1997.
For his part, Defensor, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts that jointly investigated the 25-year concession deals with House Committee on Good Government, described as “brilliant” the government’s move to have ADB facilitate the amendments in the concession deals.
“The Executive’s move gives credence to the social, financialand legal considerations given ADBs experience and credibility. No one can claim that they were bullied in accepting the necessary changes,” he said in a separate text message.
“I am positive that the amendments or changes that President Duterte wants will be accomplished since even during the committee hearings conducted by the House of Representatives, Maynilad and Manila Water were both amenable to amend the provisions such as doing away with charging consumers with corporate income tax, the non- intervention of government among others,” Defensor said.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said the ADB has always been a government’s “steady supporter of addressing the capital’s water woes.”
“The ADB already supported the NCR with value-adding projects like the the Angat Water Supply Optimization Project, the Manila South Water Distribution Project, and the Umiray-Angat Transbasin Project,” he said.
For her part, Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo also vouched for the integrity of ADB as “a reputable international bank extending development loans to developing countries so they deserve the benefit of doubt.”
“No harm in exploring anything. We just hope the final recommendation will be reflective on the interest of the people – no pass on taxes and increase of tariff to consumers. Any all recommendations are subject to review,” the Assistant Majority Leader said in a text message.
Manila Rep. Manny Lopez, chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, expressed confidence that under the leadership of Guevarra, a fair-and-square concession agreement will be drafted.
“The Filipino people can rest assured that our interest will be protected with Justice Guevarra at the helm of the group to revise the concession agreement,” he said in a Viber message.
“Onerous contracts will be prevented and water flow will be provided 24/7 on our taps. He is highly qualified to ensure and protect the needs and rights of every Filipino,” Lopez said.