Hike in water rate looms

By Christine Gaylican

A VICTORY for the government, a defeat for water consumers.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System admitted Thursday that higher water rates may be slapped on customers of the Maynilad Water Services Inc. after an international arbitration panel ordered the water firm to pay the government 6.77 billion pesos in concession fees.

MWSS Administrator Orlando Hondrade said in a phone interview that "higher tariffs for Maynilad customers are possible" as a consequence of the decision of the Paris-based ICC International Court of Arbitration.

"Part of the consequence is that the MWSS may honor the rate rebasing figures earlier approved by the MWSS-Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO). But we are still waiting word from Maynilad," said Hondrade.

In a published news report, Benpres Holdings chief operating officer Angel Ong said the arbitration panel's decision "suggests a higher tariff will result."

Prior to the result of arbitration, the MWSS board was set to allow Maynilad to increase its rates from the current 19 pesos per cubic meter to 26 pesos.

The hike to 26 pesos per cubic meter is expected to generate revenues for water firm that would allow it to finance major expenses over the next five years.

The rate hike may also prompt the Maynilad to pay the 6.77 billion pesos in fees which it has reportedly refused to pay the government since 2001.

Hondrade, however, said the Maynilad had no choice but to remit the unpaid concession fees within the next 15 days.

In his earlier statement, Ong said there was no basis for a refund to Maynilad customers.

Benpres is the major stockholder of Maynilad.

The Freedom from Debt Coalition has been pressing the Maynilad to return 2.43 billion pesos (not 6 billion pesos as earlier reported) in supposed fees which Maynilad illegally collected.

Meanwhile, a grouping of civil society groups and party-list representatives warned the Macapagal administration not to give in to the demands of the Maynilad for exhorbitant water rates.

The Philippine Water Vigilance Action Network or Bantay-Tubig said the Maynilad would only be looking for a bailout from government and consumers.

"Maynilad's shareholders have no plans to put in additional investments and they may insist on higher water rates to achieve [financial viability]," said Bantay-Tubig spokesperson Jude Esguerra in a statement.

14/11/2003

Bron : Inq7.net

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