• Govt urged to reveal cost of water rate hike

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    MILITANT group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Sunday asked the Aquino administration to reveal the extent of the water rate hike scheduled next month.

    Bayan issued the call after private water concessionaires, Manila Water and Maynilad, asked for a P5.83 and P10.3 per cubic meter rate adjustment, respectively.

    “The new rates are expected to take effect next month. It’s no longer a question of if, but a question of how much,” Bayan said in a statement.

    Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said that, “there have been no real public hearings on this issue, in the same way that public hearings are conducted for power rate hikes and toll fee increases.”

    Bayan also noted that, the concessionaires’ and the government’s MWSS Regulatory Office are now embarking on a process known as rate rebasing which allows private operators to increase their rates every five years.

    “The whole rebasing and rate setting process has been described as a negotiation between the government and the private conces­sionaires. They appear to be under no obligation to hold actual public hearings,” Reyes added.

    Consultations
    Maynilad and Manila Water have scheduled a series of public consultations on the new rates from June 11 to 14.

    But Reyes said that the so-called public consultations this week are more in the nature of a forum.

    “It is time for government to update the public on the status of these so-called negotiations which have so far remained a secret,” he added.

    Based on the studies conducted by the Water for the People Network (WPN), if these rate hike proposals are adopted in full, water rates for households consuming 30 cubic meters will increase to between P200 and P400 a month.

    WPN said that an increase in the basic charge would affect other charges in the water bill, including the computation of the value-added tax.

    Militant and consumer groups are set to hold protests coincide with the scheduled public consultations.

    No conflict of interest
    Meanwhile, Malacañang on Sunday defended Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras and Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, who allegedly lobbied for the cited rate hike.

    In a radio interview, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte downplayed the said allegations.

    Almendras and Singson served as officials of Metro Manila’s two water concessionaires.

    Almendras has ties with the Ayalas who run Manila Water, while Singson is a former official of Maynilad.

    There is no proof at all that the two had done anything to lobby support for their previous employers, Valte said

    “You know, the fact that they were from a certain company does not automatically result in a conflict of interest,” she said.

    “I think the two officials that have been mentioned have comported themselves in the best manner possible and that their actions have not raised any cause for alarm or, at least, their actions have not merited at all any indication that they have acted in a way different than to support the national interest,” Valte added.

    The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, earlier announced a rate rebasing for both concessionaires. Manila Water services the east zone, while Maynilad covers the west zone.

    Ritchie A. Horario And Catherine S. Valente

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