Group asks court to resolve water rate petition

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An urban poor consumer group on Friday asked the arbitration body to resolve the decision of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) disallowing the water rate petition of the two water concessionaires to cover their expenses in the past five years.

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Raymund Timbol, co-convenor of the Coalition of Filipino Consumers (CFC) an umbrella organization of five urban poor groups, says the arbitration body must quickly resolve the issue because it might affect the operations of water concessionaires, which depend only on rates charged directly to their consumers.

According to the concession agreements entered into by water concessionaires with the MWSS, water firms are authorized by law to increase their water rates. Concessionaires are asked to submit their business plan to the MWSS. The MWSS board then decides whether to grant the petition or not.

A few months ago, the MWSS turned down the petition for increased rates sought by the water concessionaires. In turn, water firms exercised their rights under their concession agreements to present their arguments against the decision before an arbitration body.

CFC says by law, only the water concessionaires and MWSS officials are allowed as parties in an arbitration case.

Timbol urged all sectors to respect the process of arbitration as set by law and to wait for all parties to resolve the issue on water rates. He lambasted groups such as Water for Refund Movement (Warm), which claims to represent consumer groups when in truth and in fact, is being used by several sectors to sow discord in the water sector.

“As a consumer group, we are for the welfare of millions of water consumers in this country. It is for the benefit of our people that we respect the arbitration process. In an arbitration, the only parties allowed to take part are the MWSS and the two water firms. These groups can do whatever they want.

“Warm is a bogus organization being funded by several former consultants of Gerardo Esquivel, the head of the MWSS. Everyone knows how Warm benefited from this. Warm, especially its head, RJ Javellana, has been exposed before as a paper organization being used as an attack dog against water firms,” said Timbol.

“As a former Communist, RJ Javellana’s reputation is not as clean as the MWSS thinks it is. Everyone knows how he was involved in shady deals, and that includes his former participation in a party list organization, which he reportedly left because the party list chairman found how he misused and abused party funds. “

Timbol said Warm is being used right now to shield a high MWSS official from numerous calls for his resignation. Warm, says Timbol, was used by several groups to hide the illegal activities made by an MWSS board which resulted to the loss of P122 million from the agency’s corporate coffers.

Esquivel is charged with 11 counts of graft and corruption by the MWSS Labor Association. Several groups have asked for Esquivel’s resignation out of delicadeza.

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