House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday urged the leadership of the House of Representatives to withdraw Monday’s approval of the 25-year franchises to two of the country’s biggest water concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water.
“As a deputy speaker, I am ex-officio member of all committees. I never received an invitation to attend hearings in the committee on franchises on these two franchise bills,” said Rodriguez, in a statement.
The Cagayan de Oro City Representative chided the House leadership for the “indecent haste” in rushing the approval of the Maynilad and Manila Water franchises on Tuesday night and said that the failure of the House committee on legislative franchises to invite members violates the rules of the Lower House.
“As a deputy speaker, I am ex-officio member of all committees. I never received an invitation to attend hearings in the committee on franchises on these two franchise bills,” the lawmaker said.
“(It) violates the rules of the House that hearings should be made public and that all members of the chamber and all those opposed to the measures should be invited to attend and ask questions,” he pointed out.
Rodriguez warned the House leadership that the public will suspect they are taking advantage of the pandemic, when it could have waited for the lockdowns in Metro Manila and other areas to end, so they can scrutinize these measures at length, “since they involve tens of billions the millions of consumers will pay.”
“I would have asked responsible officials and the concessionaires why their earlier contracts were allegedly onerous against the government and consumers as emphasized by President Duterte himself? What were the onerous features and who drafted those contracts?” the Mindanao solon pointed out.
Rodriguez also said he would like to know the provisions of the new contracts and how much they differ from the old agreements and if there are any improvements that were introduced.
“How do we know that all the one-sided provisions have been removed and the new contracts are now fair to the public, the government and the concessionaires if we do not subject them to scrutiny?” he stressed.
He also said he would like to ask if both concessionaires are now required to install sewerage systems and plants, instead of dumping wastes at Manila Bay.
“Is that part of the new contracts? What is the timeline for compliance, what are the penalties for non-compliance? We do not know because we were not given the opportunity to ask questions and cast an informed vote,” he asked.
Rodriguez also said it is imperative for both concessionaires to clarify concerns regarding systems loss, which like in the case of electricity, would be shouldered by customers.
“Why should we pay for water or electricity that is pilfered or stolen, that is lost due to leaks, negligence, inefficiency, and other causes beyond the control of the consumer? Like electricity, is wasted water subjected to the 12-percent value added tax (VAT)?” he further asked.