Patrizhialreyes, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

LAWMAKERS at the House of Representatives have approved on Tuesday measures to grant the franchises of Manila Water Co., Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. on third and final reading.

Voting 206-7-0 for both bills, they approved House bills 9422 and 9423, which grant separate 25-year congressional franchises to the two companies.

If legislated, these will extend the authority of the water concessionaires to establish, maintain waterworks and sewerage systems in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

The approval comes after Manila Water and Maynilad signed their revised water concession contracts with the government through the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) on March 31 and May 18, respectively.

Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Carlos Isagani T. Zarate criticized the approval of the bills, noting the speedy process by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises without scrutinizing and debating on the provisions of the new concession agreements.

“In fact, even the MWSS-Corporate Office itself has expressed issues with the franchise proposals. Moreover, consumers were not consulted [on the proposals],” he said.

He expressed concern over the charges that have been imposed on consumers such as environmental charges, rate rebasing, and unrelated company expenses such as donations and flowers.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez also urged the House leadership on Wednesday to recall the approval of the measures. He added that he would have debated on whether concessionaires are required to install sewerage system and plants along with the matter on “systems loss.”

“Why should we pay for water or electricity that is pilfered or stolen, that is lost due to leaks, negligence, inefficiency, and other causes beyond the control of the consumer? Like electricity, is wasted water subjected to the 12-percent value added tax,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which has a majority stake in Maynilad, is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Russell Louis C. Ku