BY CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO
Bacolod Councilor Archie Baribar hopes PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp. will be able to deliver its promise to improve the services of the Bacolod City Water District considering that their track record with other local government units is very dissatisfactory.
BACIWA and PrimeWater signed the controversial 25-year joint venture agreement (JVA) in Bacolod City Friday that will bring in P6.3 billion in total investments from the Villar-owned utility firm in the next 25 years.
The project is expected to start on November 1, following a three-month transition period.
“I do not know how we will live with this in the next 25 years. I just can hope they can deliver. But just the same this is a lesson to Bacolod City,” Baribar, chairman of the Sanggunian Committee on Energy, said.
“One big point is that our commodity, which is water, has been decided by only three people. This means these three people will be held accountable for the next 25 years long after we are all gone and they are also gone,” he said.
Earlier, Councilor Wilson Gamboa, Jr. urged BACIWA to reconsider its contract with PrimeWater after they found out that two directors of BACIWA Board are no longer actively involved with the Board.
Director Eduardo Ravena is no longer connected with BACIWA since July 1 this year while director David Villanueva has been medically ill for several months now.
The BACIWA Union held an “indignation protest” after learning that the contract had already been signed.
Gamboa said they can already take legal action now that the contract has been signed by BACIWA and PrimeWater.
BACIWA Chairman of the Board Lorendo Dilag said the joint venture is practical, necessary, and beneficial to the city because the water district has no financial capacity on its own to fund an expansion project that will answer the need for more water supply.
They need a partner so they do not have to secure millions of loans like what they had in 2008. They do not want to get a loan again, Dilag said.
He stressed that PrimeWater secured the contract based on its own strength against two other stakeholders, who were disqualified.
In the first five years, PrimeWater will pour in an initial P1.6-billion for pipe laying and after five years, it will invest P2 billion more for installation of wells, delivery of more water supply, and employees’ compensation, Dilag said.
After 25 years, the assets put in place during the partnership will be turned over to BACIWA free of charge, he said.
PrimeWater vice president Romeo Sabater said that once PrimeWater receives the notice to proceed, the project will start on November 1, wherein they will already be in-charge with the daily operation of the water supply system of BACIWA.
This means the water source, operation, maintenance, distribution, customer service, payment and collection will be handled by PrimeWater, he said.
When questioned about water tariff rates, Sabater said there will be tariff increases over the term of the joint venture. Not on November 1, but definitely there will be an increase along the way.
Sabater said the tariff adjustment will be submitted, reviewed and approved by BACIWA and presented to the public. It will also be approved by the regulatory agency.
Engineer Jenelyn Yap-Gemora, assistant general manager for operations, said that BACIWA presently caters to only 48 percent of the total population of Bacolod.
“The ultimate goal of the joint venture is to provide 24/7 water services, if not to 100 percent, but at least 90 percent of the population,” she said.*