ILOILO CITY Mayor Jose Espinosa III has something to tell Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD): mind your own problem.
This, after MIWD legal counsel Roy Villa claimed that the rates of South Balibago Resources Inc. (SBRI), another water provider in the city, is more expensive compared with that of the water district, even if the latter’s pending water rate hike takes effect.
Espinosa’s latest jab at MIWD is part of his continuing quest to look into the water utility’s looming rate increase and its P12.349-billion joint venture deal with the Pangilinan-led Metropac Water Investments, Corp (MWIC).
“Lain na ya ang Balibago. Ang intiendihon n’yo lang ya ang inyo. Gamasakit si A, ang masakit ni B ang tudlo mo? Let Balibago explain and let somebody question Balibago. Ang akon ya, indi mo ya pagtulod ang problema sang iban, imo lang ya problema ang imo yang sabton,” Espinosa stressed.
MIWD currently charges its concessionaires P159 for a minimum consumption of 10 cubic meters (cu. m.). It intends to increase its water rate to P200, or an additional P41, for the minimum consumption.
MIWD General Manager Imelda Magsuci said the rate increase is long overdue as the last rate adjustment was implemented 13 years ago.
On the other hand, SBRI and the city government then represented by former mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog signed a memorandum of agreement on April 18, 2016 for the delivery of water to several subdivisions in Jaro district.
The agreement was realized after the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) headed by then Vice Mayor Jose Espinosa III granted SBRI a non-exclusive franchise for 25 years at a minimum rate of more or less P357 per 10 cu. m.
But Espinosa questioned the MIWD rate hike in relation to the looming joint venture agreement (JVA) with MWIC.
The mayor said he would again ask the SP to probe MIWD’s impending rate increase as well as its JVAs.
Meanwhile, MIWD has questioned the city’s agreement with SBRI deal in court including the private firm’s P357 water rate.
The Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), which has jurisdiction on water districts, formulated the Water Rates Manual which sets the procedure on Public Hearing for Water Rate Increase as mandated in Presidential Decree 198 (Provincial Water Utilities Act).
Section 5 of PD 198 requires water district to conduct public hearings prior to any proposed increase in water rates. After the public hearing, Section 63 of the same law provides that LWUA will review the proposed rate increase.
LWUA defines public hearing as a forum or a medium of public discussion or consultation between the water district and its constituency, to inform the constituency about the proposed water-rate increase and the justifications, and for the concessionaires and the public to air their opinions, criticisms and counter suggestions to the issues affecting them.
Before the SP granted SBRI a franchise, the committee on public utilities chaired by Councilor R Leone Gerochi conducted a public hearing with affected homeowners of subdivisions where SBRI intends to install a water distribution system.
SBRI’s water rate, on the other hand, is subject to the approval of National Water Resource Board (NWRB).
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