A lawmaker on Sunday assured that the scheduled Senate inquiry on the practice of two water concessionaires of passing onto consumers the burden of paying its corporate income taxes and other expenses would be fair and that senators will not allow themselves to be influenced by the “well connected” owners of the companies.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee said that the inquiry would center on the welfare of consumers.
The senator was referring to the planned senate inquiry proposed earlier by Sen. Ralph Recto on the supposed practice of water concessionaires, Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc., of passing not only its income tax, but also other expenses like gifts, trips, entertainment, among others, on the consumers.
Concerns were raised that nothing good may come out of the inquiry, considering that influential families own the cited companies.
The Ayala group of companies owns Manila Water Co., while Maynilad Water Services Inc. is owned by the Lopez-led Benpres holdings.
Besides the private companies, the Senate will also be inviting officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System for allegedly allowing the two companies to charge their taxes to consumers.
Earlier, Sen. Edgardo Angara said that the two water companies might end up refunding its consumers some P15.3 billion—the amount Maynilad and Manila Water charged their consumers from 2008 to 2012.
This is similar to the case of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), wherein the Supreme Court ordered the company to refund consumers some P28 billion for having its consumers shoulder its income tax burdens.
Meanwhile, volunteer organization Water for All Refund Movement (WARM) said that it is currently preparing a petition asking for a corporate income tax refund from the water concessionaires.
WARM President RJ Javellana disclosed that volunteer lawyers are now studying the case and working on several documents needed to finalize the petition.
Besides the petition, the organization is also considering to file cases against those responsible for the water service fiasco.
In 2012 WARM has filed an estafa case against Maynilad and Manila Water for charging its consumers in advance for multi-billion peso water and sewerage projects that were either delayed or cancelled.
The organization also claimed that the water concessionaires added the charges to the consumers’ monthly bills for five years since 2008, but the projects were never completed.
The group was referring to the Laiban dam and 15 CMS Angat Reliability or Water Irrigation Replacement projects.
The case, however, was junked by the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office for lack of probable cause.