THE ILOILO City council passed a resolution on Tuesday seeking a review of the legality of the franchises granted by the previous council to three water distributors.
Councilor Jose Efrain G. Treñas, proponent of the resolution, said he will tap the City Legal Office (CLO) to look into the franchises granted to New Earth Water System Inc. (NEWS), the partnership between Manila Water Philippine Ventures (MWPV) and Tubig Pilipinas Group, Inc. (TPGI), and Villar-led Prime Water Infrastructure Corp.
Mr. Treñas said the review would help clear out the legality, validity, or impropriety of the council’s issuance of franchises to utilities as well as guide the new set of councilors in future decisions.
“We want to be clarified by the City Legal. If it is legal, good, then we move forward, unless we find irregularities. This is also for the new members of the city council so that they will be clarified. The results of the investigation guide us on deciding future applications,” he said.
The most recent franchise was released last May to NEWS, a subsidiary of the Lucio Tan-controlled Boracay Tubig System, Inc.
The first franchise issued was to South Balibago Resources, Inc. (SBRI).
The city’s existing and main water supplier, Metro Iloilo Water (MIW) — previously known as Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) — has questioned the council’s authority to grant a franchise and filed cases in court against SBRI, Prime Water, and city officials.
MIWD cites the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Opinion No. 18 Series of 2018, which states that local governments do not have the authority to grant water and sanitation franchise.
The opinion also stated that the granting of water permits is under the National Water Resources Board (NWRB).
Former councilor Plaridel C. Nava said the review is an insult to the previous council.
“He (Mr. Treñas) should respect the previous council because of the assumption of regularity because he was part of it before,” Mr. Nava said.
He added that such a review will create a negative impression on possible investors in the city.
“This will create an impression to the investors that businesses in the metro have no permanency and guarantee because it is being questioned,” he said.
Mr. Nava also said the decision on the legality of the council-issued franchises should be left to the court where MWID filed cases.
“Let us respect the judicial process. There are pending cases in the court and it is only the court that can determine, whether or not our actuations before, were valid or null,” he said. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo