Prime Water Infrastructure Corp., a company owned by the family of Senator Cynthia Villar, has already taken over “100 water districts and counting” nationwide, a top official from Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) said.
LWUA Administrator Jeci Lapus said that of the more than 500 water districts in the Philippines, Prime Water already took over 100 water districts and that discussions on more takeovers are currently on-going.
“It is 100 and counting,” Lapus said.
A water district is a local corporate entity that operates and maintains a water supply system in one or more provincial cities or municipalities.
LWUA is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) mandated by law to promote and oversee the development of water supply systems in provincial cities and municipalities outside of Metropolitan Manila.
Its functions include developing Local Water Districts into self‐sustaining institutions through financial, technical, institutional development, and regulatory services; partnering with other government agencies and institutions; and sustaining the agency as a viable and effective organization.
Reacting to a question of why LWUA is allowing the water districts to be taken over by Prime Water, he argued that it is the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that approves joint ventures (JVs) between water districts and private entities.
This is pursuant to the “Revised Guidelines and Procedures for Entering Into Joint Venture (JV) Agreements Between Government and Private Entities”, he said.
According to him, LWUA is just a mere “observer” when deliberating these JV deals.
“The OGCC said we don’t have the right to evaluate the
guidelines of these deals,” Lapus said during the Wednesday forum at Lido.
“We are just a mere regulator,” he added.
In December 2019, Senator Richard Gordon ordered an investigation against LWUA for allowing the privatization of the country’s water districts.
He said this after it was revealed that 63 water distribution units were already under the control of Prime Water.
Then in October last year, multi-sectoral consumer group Amlig Tubig opposed the P6.3-billion JV agreement between the Bacolod City Water District (BACIWA) officers and Prime Water.
“ is disadvantageous to the government and consumers, tainted with corruption, applicable guidelines and laws and must be declared null and void,” Amlig Tubig said in a petition they filed before the court.
Despite this, Prime Water was still able to take over BACIWA after the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 45 dismissed the petition seeking to nullify the contract between the two parties.
As a result, Prime Water is now preparing to spend nearly P2 billion to develop the water supply system in Bacolod System over the next five years. The term of the JV is 25 years.