ILOILO CITY — Manila Water Philippine Ventures, Inc. (MWPV) and Tubig Pilipinas Group, Inc. (TPGI) have been granted a franchise by the local council to establish and operate a water distribution system in parts of Iloilo City.
Councilor Plaridel C. Nava II, chair of the committee on public utilities and among eight that voted in favor of the ordinance, said the non-exclusive franchise valid for 25 years applies to MWPV and TPGI or their designated joint venture company.
MWPV, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ayala group’s Manila Water Company, Inc., already has a partnership with TPGI for a project in Malasiqui, Pangasinan.
MWPV-TPGI tandem is the third to secure a franchise from the city council after South Balibago Resources, Inc. (SBRI), and the Villar group’s Prime Water Infrastructure Corp.
Mr. Nava said the MWPV-TPGI partnership is expected to prioritize coverage of the Mandurriao district.
“It appears that Manila Water applied for a franchise way ahead of the application of Prime Water whose water franchise has been approved a few months ago. That being so, there is no reason to deny the application of Manila Water when this committee and the same sanggunian (council) have granted the franchise of Prime Water, given the similarity of its application,” Mr. Nava said.
In his committee report, Mr. Nava noted that MWPV presented its proposal on Nov. 15, 2017.
“Majority of the people of Iloilo City have expressed their dissatisfaction with the current water system due to poor quality of service, recurrent water shortages, and a significant percentage of unserved areas in Iloilo City, hence the people have instead resorted to the alternative water rationing system,” the ordinance granting the franchise stated.
Councilor Eduardo L. Peñaredondo also said that the city’s main water distributor, Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD), has failed to cope with Iloilo’s growth.
“MIWD has miserably failed to perform its duties and franchise and authority that has been given to them to deliver water to its inhabitants… We have to do our duty as representatives of the people in order to promote progress to our people,” Mr. Peñaredondo said.
On the other hand, Councilor Ely A. Estante, who was among the five council members who abstained from the vote, said he first wants a clarification on whether the council has the power to grant such franchise.
“Although there is lack of supply of water but at the same it is ultra vires or it is beyond the power of the SP (Sangguniang Panlungsod) to grant a franchise,” he said.
MIWD has filed cases in court against the Iloilo City government and SBRI, and has said that it is preparing to do the same against Prime Water.
Amarylis Josephine C. Castro, MIWD Finance Department manager and chairperson of Bulk Water Supply Project Management Team, reiterated their position that the city government has no authority to grant a franchise.
“We maintain the same stand when they granted the franchise to Prime Water. Our stand remains that the authority to grant franchise is on the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) and not the city government,” she told BusinessWorld.
Ms. Castro added that they are open to competition provided that the correct legal procedures are observed.
“Water is not an exclusive thing. We are not questioning the exclusivity because water is a basic need. It is not the competition per se, in fact we welcome it, but it should be done in the legal process,” she said.
For his part, TPGI President and CEO, Ryan Yapkianwee said in a statement that the company and Manila Water are “looking forward to service the people of Metro Iloilo by offering a safe and stable water supply system that can respond to their daily needs.”
A unit of Pure Energy Holdings Corporation, TPGI is currently operating in cities and towns in Pangasinan, Isabela, Cavite, and Negros. — Emme Rose Santiagudo