P1.62 billion ‘privatization’ deal of water district stalled
Raffy T. Cabristante (The Freeman) - August 11, 2018 - 12:00am

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — If everything goes as planned, the entire Dumaguete City could have its 24/7 water supply within the first quarter of 2019, due to a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Dumaguete City Water District (DCWD) and MetroPac Water Investments Corporation (MPW).


However, this plan is expected to be delayed after the DCWD manifested that it voluntarily put the P1.62-billion project on hold by observing a “status quo,” in response to the motion for a temporary restraining order filed last week at the Regional Trial Court by the city government, through Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo.

This means all activities related to the deal, including the DCWD’s notice of award to MPW, will be temporarily halted. But since the DCWD already manifested to observe the status quo, the court deemed the issuance of a TRO unnecessary.

Judge Cenon Voltaire Repollo of the RTC-Branch 38 set the hearing of an issuance of a preliminary injunction on September 12. The fate of the PPP, whether it stops or moves forward, lies on the decision of the court.

Remollo told reporters on Tuesday that the city government found three serious “violations of due process” by the PPP, which aimed to modernize Dumaguete City’s water distribution and wastewater management system.

The city government found the deal questionable after it had found that majority of the Technical Working Group members assigned to assess the PPP were allegedly members of the DCWD’s board of directors. This, Remollo said, can be described as a “conflict of interest.”

Remollo added that MPW is “not qualified to operate our natural resources” such as water and electricity because it is allegedly 62 percent controlled by foreign stockholders, contrary to the rule that natural resources should be managed by companies that are 60 percent owned by Filipinos.

Another concern that the mayor raised is the possible “privatization” of the wastewater management plant in Barangay Camanjac, which is a joint venture of the city government and the DCWD.

“We cannot just keep silent nga ang atong property, iapil og privatize without consent (and) knowledge of the city government. What is worse, ang offer sa privatization is 80 percent (MetroPac), 20 percent (DCWD). Karon 100 percent government-owned ang DCWD. Pero dili na unya na sila the same entity. They cannot deny that this is a privatization,” Remollo told reporters.

Last May, the MPW officially received from the DCWD a notice of award on the PPP; the two companies were supposed to enter a joint venture agreement for a 25-year concession.

DCWD general manager Esperato Dicen told The FREEMAN that among the possible improvements that were supposed to carry out were a 24/7 water supply in the entire DCWD service area, and the construction of a new wastewater management facility that will be utilized by the entire Negros Oriental.

Dicen defended the project, saying that all the equipment and upgrades from the MPW will be turned over to the DCWD by the end of the concession period. He also allayed fears that the PPP, if given the green light, will raise the price of water consumption significantly. “Expected man nga mo-raise ang presyo, pero dili grabe," he said.

On the other hand, Remollo said: “I'm not really opposed to privatization per se. Pero ang problema, gipatoo ta nga maayo ang management sa DCWD nga naa silay funds, pero diay i-privatize tungod kay kinahanglan sila og funds.”

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