Senator Win Gatchalian is calling for the renegotiation of business agreements that the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) entered into with Manila Water Company, Inc. (Manila Water) and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. (Maynilad), saying that the two concessionaires violated public trust.
During the Senate Public Services Committee hearing on the creation of the Water Regulatory Commission, Gatchalian hit officials of Manila Water and Maynilad for passing on to consumers company expenses that are not related to water distribution, such as charitable contributions, expenses for basketball games, sports clinics and other forms of donations, among others.
Gatchalian also slammed the water companies for overestimating the cost of their projects which he said will be the burden of every Juan de la Cruz.
“Kahit sabihin niyo pa na hindi kayo isang public utility, ang negosyo ninyo ay parang isang public utility na rin. At kapag public utility, kasama na dito ang pagtitiwala ng taong bayan. Dahil pinasok niyo pati ang pambasketball at charitable events ninyo. Paano pa kami magkakaroon ng pagtitiwala sa mga concessionaire? Parang ang lumalabas eh, kung makakalusot kayo, lulusot kayo. Ang kaso nahuli,” the lawmaker said.
“Nakakalungkot dahil binigyan kayo ng pribilehiyong mag-distribute ng tubig pero niloko niyo naman ang publiko,” he added.
Gatchalian also questioned the inclusion of the business tax provision in the agreement that the MWSS made with Manila Water and Maynilad.
He pointed out that such provision somehow enabled the two water concessionaires to skirt away from paying their tax obligations. For this reason, the Senator urged the regulatory body to renegotiate its agreement with the two concessionaires to make it advantageous to water consumers. Gatchalian specifically wants the business tax provision under the water concession agreement be scrapped.
“Sa dinami-rami ng abogado ninyo, naisaksak pa itong business taxes provision sa kontrata. Kaya naman ang nasa isip ko, baka may last minute na nagsaksak diyan. Kasi halos wala na kayong ginagastos. Capital expenditures, ipapasa. Utang, ipapasa. Corporate income tax ipapasa,” Gatchalian told executives of the water concessionaires.
“Nahuli ng chief regulator ang mga water concessionaire kaya tayo nagkaroon ng ganitong gulo. Ang masasabi ko lang ay na-violate ang public trust kasi binigyan kayo (water concessionaires) ng pribilehiyo na magdistribute ng tubig,” he added.
MWSS has just revoked the extension of concession agreements with both water concessionaires until 2037 which the water regulator itself approved in a board resolution in 2009. The revocation in effect ends the water firms’ concession in 2022.