BY CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO
The employees of the Bacolod City Water District felt the members of the BACIWA Board betrayed them as they condemn the signing of the Joint Venture Agreement between BACIWA and Prime Water Infrastructure Corporation.
BACIWA Employees Union president Leny Espina said the BACIWA officials did not only betray its employees but also the people of Bacolod City. The union calls on all Bacolodnons to join them in their fight for their right to clean and affordable water.
“The Baciwa Board and senior officials may deny it with all their might but they have effectively surrendered the management and operation of the water utility firm to a private corporation,” Espina said.
She said the Board pushed through with the contract despite the 25,000 signatures of the consumers and 15 big barangays of Bacolod opposing the joint venture.
Hazaelo Parlan, BEU director, said they are not anti-development but only want the consumers provided 24/7 service and for BACIWA to remain under the government. The Supreme Court has declared that all water districts should be Government Owned and Controlled Corporations.
Parlan said that aside from the employees, more than 58,000 consumers of BACIWA will be affected if PrimeWater will own it. The joint agreement, Parlan said, did not go through the process since no public hearing was conducted.
Citing the the joint agreement between PrimeWater and the Himamaylan Water District , where the employees was reduced from 69 to 10, Parlan they might suffer the same fate.
This is in violation of the Civil Service Law as government employees are governed by the Commission, he said.
Espina said the net income of the Cabanatuan Water District decreased in 2017, 2018 and 2019 when it entered into a JVA with PrimeWater.
Instead of BACIWA earning a net income between P80 million to P100 million a year, it will only be given P35 million share under the JVA with PrimeWater, she said.
Espina said the consumers will be the most affected due to the 12 percent VAT and the increases in the water rate to be imposed. There is also no guarantee that the JVA will result to 24/7 water supply.
They are not transparent since the employees were only give the terms of reference after the contract had been signed, she said.
Joevanni Padilla, BEU vice president, said PrimeWater will not invest money but will only use BACIWA as a collateral to secure a loan from the bank in order to operate it.
Padilla said the Development Bank of the Philippines has offered to lend BACIWA P3 billion to improve its services but the Board did not consider it.
He said the loan that will be made by Prime Water will be shouldered by the consumers. As a private company, he said Prime Water is profit-oriented.
Iden Villaruz, BEU secretary, said BEU opposes the joint venture because it is a total buy-out of the water district, total takeover of its operations, maintenance, and administration, she said.
“If this is not privatization, why are employees being made to transfer their contribution from the Government Service Insurance Corporation (GSIS) to the Social Security System (SSS)?” Parlan asked.
Since PrimeWater is a private company it should be the one who should pay taxes and not the consumers of BACIWA, he said.
BACIWA employees, including Espina, are given the option to stay or to resign since PrimeWater is offering them 250 percent of their salary multiplied by the numbers of years they have been employed if they opt for resignation.
She said they are studying the possibility of filing cases against the parties involved in the contract.*