Lower House OKs renewal of water concessionaires franchises: 'Unconscionable railroading?'

Published August 3, 2021, 3:42 PM

by Ben Rosario

Instead of proceeding with caution as a result of President Duterte’s unabated tirades against the two water concessionaires of Metro Manila, the House of Representatives sped up the passage of bills extending their 25-year legislative franchises.

Water pila

Seven congressmen who voted against the final reading approval of House Bills 9422 and 9423 decried the passage of the measures as the product of “unconscionable railroading.” HB 9422 and 9423, renewing the legislative franchises of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Company, respectively, to another 25 years. A total 206 House members registered “yes” votes for the passage of the bills.

In his State of the Nation Address just last week, President Duterte chided the two water concessionaires for benefitting from concession contracts that are grossly disadvantageous to consumers.

“The President has repeatedly chided the private concessionaires for their poor service and the supposed questionable provisions in the concession agreement. But here we are, approving the franchise for another 25 years for the same concessionaires without the slightest sense of inquiry into the matter,’ lamented Asst. Minority Leader and Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas said in explaining her “no vote.” Deputy Speaker and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza said the two water firms have repeatedly failed to deliver on many obligations that are provided in their respective contracts.

“Sa mga bumubuo ng Kongreso, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, ako ay nakikiusap na pag-aralan ninyo ang inyong konsiyensya kung ang ginawa ninyong ito ay makabubuti sa ating bayan at ating mamamayan at tayo’y papanigan ng kasaysayan (To the members of Congress, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, I appeal that you examine you conscience if what you have done will be good for the country and its citizens that it will be backed by history),” Deputy Speaker and BUHAY Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza said.

Atienza joined six Makabayan congressmen in assailing the swift passage of the two measures, noting that the Committee on Legislative Franchise and supporters of the measure denied lawmakers their right to interpellate the sponsors.

Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate chided the House leadership for allowing the Lower Chamber to become a mere “rubbberstamp’ for rejecting committee and plenary deliberations on the two measures.

He accused the House Committee on Legislative Franchises of reneging on its pledge to allow plenary deliberations on the proposals after the House panel passed them.

The legislative franchise panel is chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez.

Zarate said even the state-owned Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System has raised serious issues against the grant of franchise extensions to the two firms.

Meanwhile, Asst. Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro accused the House leadership fo violating the rules of the legislative chamber by not subjecting the two bills to public deliberations.