By Jaime Pilapil | The Manila Times
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Wednesday sought a review of water concession contracts, saying questionable additional charges are unjust to consumers.
The vice presidential aspirant is acting on complaints of a consumer group, United Pilipino for Consumers and Commuters (UFCC), which he came to know about in Manila on Tuesday.
Marcos said the concession agreements with Manila Water Co. Inc., Maynilad Water Services Inc. and other firms should be reviewed by the next administration because of several questionable provisions in the contracts that he described as anti-consumer.
Water rates in the country, just like electricity rates, according to him, are among the highest in Asia.
Marcos learned that water concessionaires pass to consumers the cost of projects that have not even started.
Earlier reports said some P6 billion have already been paid by water consumers for projects that have either been canceled or deferred.
“The practice today is to include in the bill the cost of the project even though it has yet to be implemented. The government should look into this because these utility service-oriented companies were established for public service, not to make very big profits,” Marcos pointed out.
The senator also questioned the twenty (20) percent environmental fee being charged to consumers supposedly for greening of watersheds.
He expressed doubt if the fee is being used efficiently because of the still serious water problem in the country.
“For example, this 20 percent environmental charge intended to reforest the watershed. I am just wondering, if this fund is used accordingly, we would not have any water crisis at all,” the senator said.
Marcos added that the government in terms of utility services must take the pro-consumer stance.
“They are collecting billions of pesos through this scheme. For me, utilities like water, electricity, and even communications, must not be a venue to rake in profits,” he said.
UFCC head Rodolfo Javellana asked Marcos to inquire from water concessionaires why they are not connecting sewerage pipes from consumers to their treatment plants.
Javellana told the senator from Ilocos Norte to also ask the government to activate dams located in Rizal province to ensure continuous flow of water supply even during summer.