Baka magmahal singil! Suansing bucks privatization of Talavera Water District
By Billy Begas
Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing believed that the proposed joint venture between the Talavera Water District and Pamana Water Corp. will be disadvantageous to the residents of the municipality.
Suansing saw no need for the Talavera Water District to enter a joint venture with the company owned by businessman Lucio Co since it is doing a good service and even generating income.
“Kaya aming ipinagtataka kung bakit nagkakaroon ng planong isapribado ang Talavera Water District ngayon dahil mukha namang walang problema sa operasyon nito,” said Suansing in a privilege speech in February. “Tumututol ako dito hindi lamang dahil maganda ang kasalukuyang operasyon nito higit dito alam kong magiging malaki ang magiging pinsala nito sa aking mga kababayan sa Talavera.”
Suansing said the agreement, which may lead to the privatization of the Talavera Water District will result in increases in water rates and loss of jobs with the possible restructuring and reorganization.
“Dahil paghahanap ng kita ang pangunahing layunin ng mga pribadong kompanya tulad ng Pamana Water Corporation at dahil hindi na kontrolado ng gobyerno ang presyo ng tubig maaaring tumaas ang water service fees sa buong Talavera,” Suansing said.
Suansing’s privilege speech was referred to the House Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization. A hearing was conducted on March 17 and April 8.
In the March hearing, Suansing said the current minimum being charged by Talavera Water District is P180 for those using 10 cubic meters and below.
Based on the proposed increases in the planned joint venture, Suansing said the minimum charge will be P269.
Suansing said Talavera Water District, being a Government Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC) is exempted from paying taxes under Presidential Decree 198.
“Kaya po mababa ang presyo,” Suansing added.
The average consumption, she said is 25 cubic meters, which is equivalent to P250 monthly. This will become P373.65 under the proposed joint venture agreement.
“Kung maglalagay na ng capitalization, makina o karagdagang empleyado dahil mas mataas ang kanilang suweldo ang mangyayari po ang assumption ko lang po dito……. Yung dati po na ginagamit na 25 cubic meters na dating babayaran lamang ay P250 ay magiging P553.55 per month na po,” she stressed.
In the same hearing, Talavera Water District General Manager Leandro Lacsama said he also opposed the proposed joint venture.
“Sa ngayon po hindi po kailangan (pumasok sa joint venture)…. May kakayanan po ang Talavera Water District, mayroon pong mga reklamo pero hindi po ganun karami na nagereklamo at nasosolusyunan naman ng Water District, na cover na po ng Talavera Water District ang halos buong Talavera at halos lahat po ng pinapagawa nito ay galing sa pondo ng Talavera,” Lacsamana said.
Lacsama said that based on the presentation made by Pamana in September 2020, the water bills under the Talavera Water District will be subjected to 12% Value Added Tax (VAT).
“…Meron din po silang proposal na magkakaroon ng 30% increase sa water rate charge po,” Lacsamana added.
Talavera Mayor Nerivi Martinez, who also attended the hearing denied that the local government unit has something to do with the proposed joint venture.
“Ang alegasyon po ay ang LGU ay nakikipag-usap sa isang private company para sa isang planong privatization, ito po ay pinabubulaanan ko at ang tanging role ko po sa aming district ay mag-appoint ng board of directors, yun lang po,” Martinez said.
Talavera Water District Board of Directors chairperson Jaime San Pedro insisted that there is currently no joint venture.
“We would like to reiterate that the passed and signed Board resolution was only for the purpose of the proponents to conduct feasibility study,” San Pedro said.
In the April 8 hearing, Jean Macaspac, Business Development head of Pamana Water Corp. said the company has enough experience in running water distribution and hired experts on the business.
“Nag-hire po kami ng mga expert na makakatulong po namin sa pagpapa-improve po ng water system ng mga makaka-partners po namin,” Macaspac said.
She said Pamana was able to improve water services of Aliaga and San Leonardo towns in Nueva Ecija. Pamana also entered a joint venture with Candaba Water District in October 2020.
Pamana Water was established in 2015.
“… So ang ibig pong sabihin ang inyong ekspiryensya sa district water ay napaka-iksi,” Suansing pointed out.
Macaspac admitted that Pamana sent a letter to Mayor Martinez but only to inform her of the company’s intention to the municipality.
Towards the end of the hearing, the committee approved the motion of Suansing to recommend to the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to conduct investigation on possible misfeasance and malfeasance on the issues surrounding the Talavera Water District.
The committee also approved the motion for the creation of a resolution to suspend all pending proposal on joint venture agreements on water districts until the completion of review or audit by the Local Water Utility Administration and other concerned agencies.
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