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Can be more catastrophic than MRT 

Business projects oblivious to human communities are a trademark of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other globalization platforms, advocacy groups said Monday. Shortly after the conclusion of the 31st ASEAN Summit, indigenous peoples, and water and energy rights advocates slammed China-funded water and energy projects under “Build, Build, Build” which are projected to displace thousands of families.

At a conference held in Quezon City, the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu), Water for the People Network (WPN) and People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates (POWER) joined other concerned groups in tackling large dams among the Duterte administration’s flagship “Build, Build, Build” projects and their impact on communities. These include the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Phase 1 Kaliwa Dam, Phase 2 Laiban Dam and the Chico Pump Irrigation Project, all being vetted to the Chinese government for official development assistance (ODA) and estimated to dislodge over 14,000 households mainly of indigenous peoples, noted Piya Malayao of Katribu. “These projects pushing through can be more catastrophic than the tragic story of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT),” Jenny Haygood of IBON said.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) estimates that the Kaliwa Dam will force out about 45 households in General Nakar and Infanta towns, but omits the possible impact on the livelihood and way of life of Dumagat and Remontado communities in nine barangays downstream. To cost a total of Php10.9 billion, the project is already awaiting regulatory approval.

However, Owen Migraso of the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) said that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the project is outdated. Wilma Quierrez of DUMAGAT Sierra Madre said,“We also have never been consulted about this infrastructure.”

A structure much larger than the Kaliwa Dam, the Laiban Dam is estimated by the MWSS to displace 4,413 households in nine barangays in Daraitan and Laiban, Rizal province and another in Quezon province. But Arnel Delos Santos of Bigkisan at Lakas ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK) estimates that 10,000 households will be affected and that the dam could submerge forests, farms and other settlements. In the pipeline, the Laiban Dam is expected to add 1,800 million liters per day (MLD) by 2027 and will be constructed at the higher portion of the Kaliwa River. “We prefer not to leave our homes, our farms, our ancestors’ legacy,” Delos Santos said when asked if they get any compensation.

Meanwhile, Delfin Pecua of Timpuyog Dagiti Mannalon iti Kalinga (TMK), a federation of farmers in Kalinga, said that the Php2.7-billion Chico Pump Irrigation Project raises the same controversy of the World Bank-funded Chico River Dam during the Marcos era in the 1980s. The latter was strongly opposed by Kalinga communities for threatening to flood thousands of hectares of their ancestral and agricultural land.

The groups related the deluge of large dams to the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation which aims for inter-ASEAN energy trade through an ASEAN power grid. “We already have more than enough energy sources today,” Cleng Julve of the POWER alliance said. “Building more large dams for energy is unnecessary,” she added.

According to Arnold Padilla also of IBON, this exemplifies how government-facilitated infrastructure projects adhering to the neoliberal framework are planned to boost economic activity and push growth regardless of their disconnect at best – or negative impact at worst – on the people’s lives and livelihood. The groups vowed to continue opposing large dams and campaigning for people’s control over the nation’s resources so that these will be used to primarily respond to the people’s and national development needs. ###

 

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​By Water for the People Network- The 20th anniversary of the privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in August was considered a milestone by privatization proponents. The MWSS has often been used to showcase the supposed benefits of turning over water supply services to private corporations. But the start of government-declared Consumer Welfare Month is an opportune time to note that two decades of MWSS privatization has harmed the interests of the consumers and the general public. While ensuring huge profits for Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc., it has violated the people’s right to water, the various ways by which are listed below:

  1. MWSS privatization has resulted in soaring water rates as private concessionaires rake in massive corporate profits

Between August 1997 and August 2017, the basic tariff of Manila Water has soared by 969 percent. The basic tariff of Maynilad, meanwhile, has ballooned by 596 percent. The all-in tariff, which counts the basic tariff plus add-on charges, for Manila Water has increased by 762% during the same period. For Maynilad, it has jumped by 548 percent.

This translated to enormous profits with a combined accumulated income of Php94.5 billion from 2000 to 2015. Such soaring rates and massive profits for Manila Water and Maynilad were made possible by the concession agreements (CA) they signed with MWSS. Tariffs reflected the impact of inflation, adjustments in the foreign exchange rate, and the concessionaires’ petitioned basic charge which would allow them to supposedly implement their business plan and achieve a guaranteed rate of return in the succeeding five years.

Privatization guaranteed the profits of Manila Water and Maynilad not only by allowing them to pass on all the risks of running a business to the consumers. Privatization also legitimized the collection from the consumers of onerous and questionable charges by MWSS concessionaires.

During the last rebasing in 2013, it was exposed that Manila Water and Maynilad had been including questionable items in their application for new rates. As in previous rebasing exercises (2002 and 2007), they passed on to clueless customers the costs of their corporate income tax (CIT), unimplemented projects, advertising, donations, and recreation.

  1. MWSS privatization has seriously undermined the power and mandate of government to regulate the private concessionaires to protect public interests and welfare

The last rebasing also exposed a key feature of MWSS privatization which is how the power of the state to regulate businesses to protect public interest is greatly undermined. When the Regulatory Office (RO) prohibited the concessionaires from passing on their CIT and other questionable charges to the consumers, Manila Water and Maynilad promptly challenged the decision through international arbitration. This is a mechanism provided by the CA to settle disputes between the concessionaires and MWSS on the interpretation and implementation of the contracts’ provisions, including on the setting of rates. It is a secretive and undemocratic process that includes only representatives of MWSS and the concessionaires and without any public participation. It is being chaired by an unaccountable foreign third party that also represents big business interests.

Filipino taxpayers now face the possibility of shouldering as much as Php82 billion in additional burden if the concessionaires are able to secure favorable decisions from international arbitration. Already, the arbitration panel that heard Maynilad’s case ordered government to pay Php3.4 billion. These amounts represent the supposed losses of the concessionaires when the RO disallowed the continued collection of the CIT and other questionable charges. As stipulated in the CA, government has committed to pay for these supposed losses through what is called sovereign guarantee.

As early as 1998 or a year into privatization, Manila Water had already sought international arbitration to compel the RO to increase the firm’s rate of return contained in its original bid. Aside from the arbitration mechanism, concessionaires also resort to blatant arm-twisting to force favorable decisions from government. In 2001, the original investors of Maynilad blackmailed government to amend the CA to allow it to increase rates or else it would terminate the contract.

  1. MWSS privatization has further weakened the people’s right to water amid questionable claims by the concessionaires of improved water services

The soaring water rates and onerous charges being imposed by Manila Water and Maynilad have effectively marginalized poor households from enjoying the right to access water for domestic use. Amid depressed wages and chronic unemployment, water services along with other basic daily necessities, have put increasing pressure on ordinary families’ budgets.

While both concessionaires claim almost universal water supply coverage, poor communities in their service areas do not enjoy the same quality of service that well-off customers like richer households and commercial areas have. Instead of individual connections, poor communities have to make do with bulk meter connections. Aside from compromising the safety and quality of water, it is also not unusual that the water supply in these poor communities is not available 24/7.

Based on the latest available data, the number of persons per connection for Manila Water is seven, and nine for Maynilad, indicating the prevalence of bulk connections – mainly among urban poor communities – in the MWSS concession areas. Thus, while the concessionaires claim outstanding performance (which the RO apparently could not even independently verify), the truth is that many households, in particular the poor, are not individually connected to the water supply system, which is supposed to be the standard. The poor also end up paying more as block tariff rates apply on these bulk connections.

Aside from universal and 24/7 supply coverage, the concessionaires also promised to provide improved sewerage coverage, which they substantially failed to do amid limited investments despite skyrocketing water rates. In their original service targets, Maynilad committed to achieve 31% sewerage coverage by 2016 and 52% for Manila Water. As of December 2013 – the latest available data – Manila Water has only achieved 12% and Maynilad, 11 percent.

  1. MWSS privatization has deepened corporate and foreign control over vital infrastructure and key services in the country

From the onset, MWSS privatization has been an agenda of big corporate and foreign interests.  Foreign creditors World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) pushed for the privatization of MWSS, which then owed them some US$800 million in debt. The World Bank’s International Finance Corp. (IFC) served as government consultant in MWSS privatization and designed the concession agreement.

The IFC is now an investor in Manila Water, raking billions of profits from a contract it designed itself. Manila Water is led by Ayala Corporation and United Kingdom (UK)-based United Utilities. Aside from the IFC, other foreign investors include Japanese giant, Mitsubishi Corp. as well as First State Investments of the UK, Singapore-based global fund manager Aberdeen Asset Management plc, and US-based equity mutual fund Smallcap World Fund Inc.

Meanwhile, Maynilad is currently controlled by Manny V. Pangilinan through the Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and DMCI Holdings of the Consunji family. MPIC , of course, is backed by  Indonesia’s Salim group. Other foreign interests in Maynilad are MCNK JV Corp., a unit of Japanese giant Marubeni Corp., and Lyonnaise Asia Water Limited, a unit of French firm Suez, one of the world’s largest water companies.

Water privatization is being challenged worldwide – from France where some of the first water privatization took place and where the world’s largest water firms are based – to Jakarta, Indonesia which privatized its water system the same year as Metro Manila and used the same model.

Water privatization must be reversed. There is no way out of the trap of exorbitant water rates and unreliable service for the poor unless the concession agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad are junked and the operation of the water supply system is taken over by a reformed public sector. ###

From www.news.cn

As the Philippine government launches Consumer Welfare Month, the Water for the People Network (WPN) warned against impending unreasonable water rates should government yield to the monetary demands of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Company. The network said that the Supreme Court decision that public utilities cannot pass on their corporate income taxes as charges to consumers should apply to the water sector.

Maynilad and Manila Water customers face an Php82-billion additional burden as the private water firms took to local and international arbitration courts after their petitions for rate hikes were denied by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Sytem (MWSS).

During the third rate rebasing or determination of indicative rates conducted in 2012-2013, Maynilad and Manila Water proposed tariffs of Php8.58/cubic meter (cu.m.) and Php5.83/cu.m., respectively, based on their past and projected expenses. Afterwards, the MWSS ordered lower tariffs after disallowing the water firms’ pass-on charges of corporate income tax and other expenses unrelated to water services such as donations and that for rest and recreation.

This July the international arbitral tribunal decided that Maynilad could demand of government Php3.42 billion for revenue losses due to the MWSS determination, while the decision on the case of Manila Water demanding Php79 billion remains pending. This is on top of other amounts which the companies wish to collect to cover for their supposed losses for not having been allowed to charge their petitioned rates. According to reports, government is studying its next move with regard to the arbitral decision on Maynilad, whose demand to charge its petitioned rate has also been recently granted by a local court.

WPN said that in light of the forthcoming rate rebasing period, Maynilad and Manila Water’s rate petitions may include the above amounts. The MWSS should stand its ground against counting corporate income taxes and expenses unrelated to the provision of water services as valid expenditures that should figure in consumers’ water bills, the network said. It also supported a resolution by progressive lawmakers invoking an SC decision in the case of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) in 2002. According to the SC, public utilities’ corporate income taxes and expenses unrelated to utility services should not be passed on as charges to consumers. Based on this, the highest court ordered Meralco to refund the amount it overcharged  consumers for many years.

Its concession agreements with the water firms compel the government to honor financial obligations with its private partners, which result either in higher user fees or additional taxes for consumers. The concession agreements also allow the private companies to sue government through international courts when their business interests are threatened. According to WPN,  the concession agreement should be rescinded for undermining public interest in favor of corporations that have turned water services into a profit-making venture. (end)

 

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Photo from www.news.cn

Advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) said that the decision by the International Arbitration Court (IAC) requiring the Philippine government to pay Php3.4 billion to Maynilad Water Services, Inc. reflects the corporate bias of international mechanisms for resolving disputes between governments and private corporations. The Philippine government should learn from the public’s negative experience under 20 years of water privatization and rescind onerous and business-biased concession agreements (CAs) that undermine public welfare, said WPN.

The IAC’s recent ruling on the Php3.4 billion compensation to Maynilad is supposedly for the losses the latter incurred between March 11, 2015 to August 16, 2016 after the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System – Regulatory Office (MWSS – RO) denied the water firm’s petition for a rate hike. The IAC also decided that Maynilad may recover from the government its losses from September 1, 2016 onwards. Government could be compelled to pay more should Maynilad further seek the IAC’s ruling to reverse the MWSS’s continued deferment of implementing the IAC’s previous decision favoring Maynilad’s petition for a Php3.06 rate increase. This covers purported monthly losses of Php180 million to 200 million from January 1, 2013 to March 10, 2015.

WPN said that under the CA, rate rebasing or adjustment of basic water rates is determined every five years so that water firms can recover their expenses and ensure their rate of profit. In 2013, Maynilad and Manila Water Service, Inc. sought rate rebasing increases of Php8.58 and Php5.83, respectively, for the 2013-2018 period. However, the MWSS-RO rejected the rate hike petitions due to mounting public pressure after it was revealed that the water firms were passing on questionable charges to consumers, such as corporate income tax recovery, donations, advertising, rest and recreation, the cost of future projects, etc.

According to WPN, corporate income tax recovery comprised 31% and 26% of the rates charged to consumers by Manila Water and Maynilad, respectively, in 2008 and 2012. The group noted however that the CAs with the two firms did not mention corporate income tax as part of the “Philippine business taxes” listed among the recoverable expenses entitled to them. Both corporations should thus give back to consumers the amount of corporate income taxes collected from 2007 to 2012, said WPN.

The IAC decision, said the group, is detrimental to the millions of Filipino consumers who have been increasingly burdened by expensive water rates since water privatization in 1997. Water rates have since gone up by 973% for Manila Water and 583% for Maynilad. Filipino consumers are even made to shoulder millions-of pesos of IAC arbitral costs for the cases filed by the private concessionaires.

WPN stated that the latest decision of the IAC further proves that the CA undermines public welfare and interest, and should be rescinded immediately in line with a strategic reversal of the MWSS’ 20 years of privatization. The group said that instead of paying billions to Maynilad, government should start putting capital into regaining control of water service that is genuinely publicly accessible and affordable.(end)

Photo from GMA News

A network of teachers for transformative education said that the signing of the free tuition bill into law is a welcome major first step in realizing education as a right and should be ensured by government  as a priority. Improving and expanding the public university system is however as important, said the group, as is developing a nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented curriculum.

The Educators Forum for Development (EFD) said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of Republic Act 10931 or “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” is a positive and significant start towards achieving every Filipino’s right to education. The law grants full tuition subsidy for students in State and local universities and colleges as well as state-run technical-vocational schools.

The EFD underscored however that to genuinely ensure education for all and facilitate the schooling of millions of out-of-school youth, government is further challenged to improve the quality of education and increase the number and capacity of public higher education institutions. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) 2016 Annual  Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS), there are almost four million out-of-school children and youth, of which 87% are aged 16-24 or of tertiary education age. As of 2014, a total of 675 government higher education institutions including sattelite campuses nationwide were outnumbered by 2,374 private higher education institutions.

The group also said that improving and expanding the public university system is the best defense against the privatization of education, which commodifies a basic right and marginalizes no and low-income families. It can also help guard against  the unnecessary flow into private profits of people’s money, which should otherwise be allocated precisely to strengthening the public university system. EFD said that strengthening the public university system means increasing teachers’ capacities, employing quality teachers’ materials, publications and teaching methods, and ensuring adequate budget for free tertiary education in SUCs.

EFD said that lastly, but most essential, is the development of a progressive, patriotic and pro-people curriculum. This is contrary to the K-12 framework that aims to build an army of cheap labor for the global market, and instead will harness the Filipino youth’s full potential to become the country’s nation builders. ###
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The Educators Forum for Development is a network of teachers advocating transformative education.

Photo by Jen Guste/ IBON Foundation 2017

 

We, members of the Educators’ Forum for Development, are alarmed at Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s order to “bomb Lumad schools”. The administration also staunchly defends the extension of Martial Lawin Mindanao which has further disrupted Lumad schools. The safety of the Lumad schoolchildren will only be secured with the immediate withdrawal of the military from community schools and an end to aerial bombardments in the entire island.

The Lumad of Mindanao have overcome the absence of educational facilities in their communities by setting up hundreds of schools with the help of charitable institutions, devoted educators, and missionaries.. Contrary to the President’s misinformed description that they operate illegally, most of these schools have earned official recognition by the Department of Education, while the rest continue to hurdle towards getting the official stamp.

Through volunteers and licensed teachers, some of whom hail from the country’s premiere universities, Lumad schools teach not only Science, Math, English, Filipino and Social Studies, but Culture and Agriculture. They aim to mold Filipino citizens who are not only knowledgeable but also socially conscious and responsible, and who value their indigenous heritage and harness their agricultural empowerment towards nation building.

The government’s militarism is undermining these initiatives . Even prior to the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, Lumad teachers and students have been victimized by counter-insurgency campaigns. They are vilified, forced to evacuate their communities, and their school authorities and community leaders are extrajudicially killed. Since the declaration of Martial Law, government has closed 20 Lumad schools, while instances of military occupation, killings, threats, harassment and intimidation, destruction of property, indiscriminate firing, filing of trumped-up charges, enforced disappearances, and torture have heightened. Last week, three Lumad school teachers who were among the protesters during Congress’ joint session on the extension of Martial Law were illegally detained.

The government has the responsibility to uphold, protect and promote the right to education, particularly of underserved sectors such as indigenous children. We call on the President to order his troops to vacate and stop aiming their guns and bombs at community schools and premises. Ending the militarization of Lumad communities is an immediate doable step that the Duterte government can take to help indigenous groups in Mindanao reclaim their lives and continue their learning.

We also join calls for an end to martial law in Mindanao that has already displaced and disrupted the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands.

 

Ninia Dela Cruz

Secretary General

Educators Forum for Development

 

Educators Forum for Development is a network of educators committed to transformative education.

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In the aftermath of the Fourth Mindanao-Wide Conference of the Save our Schools (SOS) Network, transformative education group Educators Forum for Development (EfD) said that the Duterte administration should stop continuing attacks against indigenous people (IP)’s alternative schools. The EfD echoed calls by the SOS Network for military troops to halt operations in and pull out of indigenous peoples and farmers’ communities as these result in human rights violations including the right to education.

According to a report released by the SOS Campaign of the Lumad in Southern Mindanao, Caraga, Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen, there have been 168 incidents of military attacks on 47 Lumad schools under the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan and the Duterte administration’s Oplan Kapayapaan. More than 1,000 families and 5,000 students have been victims of forced evacuation, threat, harassment, intimidation, red-tagging, and surveillance. There have also been cases of extrajudicial killings, filing of trumped-up charges, and schools closure.

These have been perpetrated by 16 battalions and 2 brigades of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with paramilitary troops and even some government agencies. More than half of total AFP troops are deployed in Mindanao, the report noted. State and paramilitary forces are known to secure big business and landlords interests over the resource-rich island.

To date, SOS has recorded 15 cases of military encampment affecting five Lumad schools since the president’s cancellation of the peace talks between government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The EfD lamented that AFP attacks against farmers and indigenous communities have only intensified and involved aerial bombings, shelling and strafing, as in Compostela Valley, Sarangani and even Abra. It was also during this period that Ramon and Leonela Pesadilla, a couple who had donated land for a Lumad school, were murdered in their home.

The EfD said that this rabid miliarization continues to put schools and their supporters in the line of fire and subverts the gains built by the Lumad in establishing educational facilities where government has provided none. The continued attacks against schools also tend to offset Duterte’s pro-Lumad pronouncements especially when he was Davao mayor. The administration should end these attacks and execute its duty to uphold the Lumad and every other Filipino’s right to education, said EfD. The group meanwhile vowed to amplify the call to help and advance indigenous people’s alternative schools and to gather wider support for this advocacy.

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Ten thousand families in nine barangays inhabited by the Dumagat and Remontado indigenous peoples stand to be affected by the impending revival of the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS) in Rizal and Quezon

In forums and activities held around international commemoration of people’s action for rivers and against large dams and in pursuit of the right to water, advocates including the Water for the People Network (WPN) called on the public to support the clamor ‘people’s control over water resources and services.’

Government and private sector proponents, including international financial institutions, promote large dams allegedly as a means of providing cheap energy and water supply to poor countries like the Philippines. But many Filipinos still lack access to basic utilities, said WPN. Millions of people in Metro Manila – with or without water connections – have insufficient yet expensive water supply. Some areas in the country especially Mindanao continue to experience intermittent power services while increasing power rates constantly loom, noted the group.

WPN observed that many large hydropower dams such as Ambuklao, Binga and Magat are in fact underused largely due to heavy siltation brought about by the dams’ enormity. For the same reason, the Pantabangan power plant and the San Roque Multipurpose Dam also produce only 6% and 27% of their rated capacities, respectively. These dams range from over 200-1,000 meters in length and are 100 to over 200 meters high, occupying sizeable areas of land.

Aside from failing to provide cheap and accessible utilities, WPN said, large dams have been destructive to communities, particularly those of farmers and indigenous peoples.

For instance, due to heavy rains from Typhoons Lando and Nona in 2015, water was released from the San Roque, Binga, Ambuklao, Ipo, Angat and Magat dams. This led to wide-scale flooding and wrought approximately Php13.8 billion in damages to livelihoods and properties.

Megadams displace human settlements and drive communities away from livelihood and income sources, WPN said. The construction of Pantabangan Dam, for example, displaced an entire town with 13,000 people, seven villages, and 8,100 hectares of land of which 4,000 were residential. The 500-hectare Ambuklao Dam that was constructed from 1952-1956 in Itogon, Benguet dislocated some 200 families. Binga Dam engulfed 150 hectares of ancestral lands of the Bugkalot and Ibaloi. The San Roque Dam submerged 4,000 hectares also of Ibaloi and Bugkalot ancestral domains and physically displaced 600-741 families. The Pulangi IV HEP meanwhile submerged 1,400 hectares of agricultural lands and displaced four barangays in the municipality of Maramag, Bukidnon.

Meanwhile, ten thousand families in nine barangays inhabited by the Dumagat and Remontado indigenous peoples stand to be affected by the impending revival of the New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS) in Rizal and Quezon, which pertains to the Laiban Dam (that includes Kaliwa Dam), according to the Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo ng Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK). On the other hand, the 500-megawatt Wawa Pumped-Storage Hydro Power Project by Olympia Violago Water and Power Inc. threatens to displace six communities of indigenous peoples and settlers in Rodriguez and Antipolo, Rizal.

According to WPN, megadams have only served and profited international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank, big foreign and local construction and power companies, and their government cohorts. It is high time for government to heed the call of the indigenous peoples, farmers and people’s rights advocates to suspend the construction of large dams, and to take hold of the energy and water sectors primarily for public rather than commercial benefit, the group said.

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Advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) said that looming water rate hikes are unwarranted since consumers have long been over-charged to ensure profits for the two water concessionaires. On World Water Day, the group said that the Duterte administration should rescind the onerous concession agreements (CA) with the Pangilinan-Salim group’s Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and the Ayalas’ Manila Water Co., and take initial steps to reverse the privatization of the country’s water utilities.

The Regulatory Office (RO) of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) announced in early this year that it has submitted its recommendation to raise water rates by Php0.70 per cubic meter for Maynilad and Php0.37 per cubic meter for Manila Water.  However, the proposed increases are pending the approval of the MWSS board, which has yet to be appointed.

According to the MWSS, reasons for the hikes are changes to the basic charge due to inflation and fluctuation in forex rates. Under the CA, water concessionaires can adjust the basic charge every January 1 to account for inflation as measured by the consumer price index (CPI) in July the previous year.  Meanwhile, the basic charge is also adjusted every quarter to reflect foreign currency changes which is listed in the water bill as FCDA or foreign currency differential adjustment.

WPN states that the CA is designed to unnecessarily adjust tariffs to ensure the water firms of profits. Water consumers are hit twofold at the beginning of each year since they have to bear the burden of both the rise in prices of basic goods and services, as well as the increase in water rates due to inflation. Consumers are also being double-charged for currency fluctuations through the FCDA and the fixed Php1 currency exchange rate adjustment (CERA).

Instead of the affordable water rates promised by the privatization of MWSS, consumers have been forced to pay for continuously rising onerous charges. WPN estimates that since 1997, water concessionaires have raised their basic charge by 973% for Manila Water and 583% for Maynilad.

WPN said that the Duterte administration should renege the dubious CAs with Maynilad and Manila Water. Government should instead protect and ensure the public’s right and access to water by reversing water privatizaiton, said the group.###

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prior to #WorldConsumerRightsDay, Filipino consumers including those for a #BetterDigitalWorld converged in a forum, expressed their woes and aspirations and vowed to continue working for #SocialEconomicChange

Various consumer groups gathered in a conference last Monday in Quezon City to tackle the social and economic reforms needed to promote consumer welfare. The event participants recognized the need to pursue real social and economic reforms in order to resolve current consumer issues and uphold consumer rights.

The forum dubbed “CASER: What Is In It For Consumers? A Conference on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and Consumer Welfare” was attended by representatives from Alerta Mamimili (Gabriela), Bantay Bigas (Rice Monitor), Green Action PH, organic advocates group CHIMES, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), National Consumer Affairs Council (NCAC), People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates (POWER), transport group PISTON, digital rights watchdog Text Power, and Water for the People Network (WPN). The event  was organized by IBON in partnership with Pilgrims for Peace and Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace.

IBON research head Rosario Bella Guzman kicked off the conference with a discussion of the adverse impact of neoliberal globalization policies that have led to worsening social inequalities, widespread poverty and hunger and thus increasing consumers’ woes.  This was followed by consumer testimonies from the above consumer groups. Raymond Palatino, Pilgrims for Peace convenor and former member of the Philippine House of Representatives then discussed the significance of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) in promoting and ensuring consumer rights and welfare.

The event culminated in the conference participants’ affirmation that continued peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) can lead to genuine and people-centered development.   In this light, the conference echoed the following calls:

–          People-centered reforms to replace the neoliberal economic policies that the Duterte administration continues to pursue;

–          The assertion and promotion of people’s right to effective participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making towards nation building;

–          Participation in activities towards advancing consumer rights and welfare such as public forums, media briefings, legislation and lobbying, mobilizations, and research and education campaigns, among others; and

–          urging government to resume peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The participants concluded the conference with the commitment to work together under a unified national network of consumers that will promote people-centered development as the basis of protecting and advancing consumer rights. ###

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