• ‘Water firms hike rates despite abuses’

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    Maynilad and Manila Water are poised to raise water rates this month despite their continued failure to provide wastewater treatment facilities in violation of their contract as utility providers.

    Buhay party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza, a former Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, disclosed on Monday that Maynilad and Manila water were fined P200,000 a day during his term for their failure to establish the required waste water treatment facilities. Their fines from May 2009 to January this year have reached P414.6 million, he said.

    The looming water rate hike is the effect of an increase in foreign currency differential adjustment (FCDA), a mechanism that allows Maynilad and Manila Water to cover foreign exchange fluctuations that affect their payments on foreign currency-denominated loans for expansion and service improvement.

    Because of “the absence of wastewater treatment facilities, household waste and sewage from Metro Manila and surrounding provinces have continually been discharged into the Pasig River and subsequently into Manila Bay, virtually killing the bay and rendering it as one giant pozo negro (septic tank). Technically, all household wastewater should be cleaned as part of Maynilad and Manila Water’s services,” Atienza said.

    As a result of the water rate adjustment that will take effect this month, those consuming 20 cubic meters a month will have to pay an additional P4.45 and those consuming 30 cubic meters, P9.12 more.

    Manila Water will raise rates by 0.36 per cubic meter, while Maynilad will increase its rate by 0.38 per cubic meter.

    This means an additional P1.19 in the bill of Maynilad’s lifetime consumers, or those who consume 10 cubic meters and below per month. The increase will add P4.45 to the bill of those that consume 20 cubic meters a month, and P9.12 for 30 cubic meters.

    “Until now, these two water concessionaires have not fully complied with the terms of their contracts. What’s worse is the fact that consumers are the ones bearing the burden of the special privileges granted to them in their contracts. The consumers are also charged for a service that is not being rendered to them such as wastewater treatment facilities,” Atienza said.

    He noted that the country’s water firms are enjoying perks despite their contract violations.

    Atienza said the contracts that these firms violate allow them to secure loans from foreign financial institutions with sovereign guarantees, tax-free.

    “It’s the Filipino consumers who end up bearing the burden of paying taxes for them. “And as if this wasn’t enough, Maynilad and Manila Water even have the nerve to ask for an increase in water rates,” he added.

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