THE SENATE has approved on second reading measures seeking to grant a 25-year franchise for water concessionaires Manila Water Co., Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc.

It amended House Bill No. 9422 that allows Maynilad to continue operating in the west zone of Metro Manila including Cavite province, and House Bill No. 9423 for Manila Water in the east zone including Rizal province.

The measures allow the concessionaires to establish, operate and maintain a waterworks system, and sewerage and sanitation services in their franchise areas, including the right to bill and collect fees from consumers.

Under the proposed laws, the corporate income tax can no longer be charged to consumers.

Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri asked to restore the right of eminent domain, which was accepted by Senator Mary Grace Natividad S. Poe-Llamanzares, the primary sponsor of both bills, because it would expedite certain projects while minimizing the bureaucratic process.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto made an amendment that when public interest for affordable water security so requires and upon application of the grantee, state-led Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System is authorized to approve the amendment of the concession agreement to extend its term up to the term of the franchise after the appropriate notice and hearing.

A change was accepted to reconcile a conflict in the date due to the concession agreement ending earlier than the actual franchise, said Ms. Poe-Llamanzares.

The Senate Committee on Public Services earlier looked into the possible synchronization of the expiry dates of the two water concessionaires’ revised concession agreements ending in 2037, and their proposed franchise extensions, which will end in 2046.

Amendments were also made to include timelines and a period of evaluation to ensure the concessionaires will comply with their commitments.

The bills allow the grantees to charge reasonable and just fees for their services to all types of consumers and water users within their franchise areas.

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. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan