Case seeking nullification of Baciwa JVA readied

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Convenors of Amlig Tubig and various consumer organizations in Bacolod City are planning to file a petition seeking the nullification of the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) entered into by the Bacolod City Water District (BACIWA) with PrimeWater, Infrastructure Inc. with application for the issuance of temporary restraining order (TRO) with writ of preliminary injunction.

Amlig Tubig represented by Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr., Pepito Pico, Lordgeline Jones, and Ereneo Longinos is filing the petition against BACIWA, PrimeWater vice president Romeo Sabater, branch head Lily Donasco, BACIWA chairman Lorendo Dilag and directors Mona Dia Jardin, Lawrence Villanueva, and Eduardo Ravena, Joint Venture Selection Committee (JVSC) chairperson Samuel Penado, and members Jenelyn Gemora, Rommel Paredes, and Diana Fe Tan, Adzra Juljani.

The group is asking the court to determine the validity of the JVA, the certificates of successful negotiation, supplemental terms to the certificate of successful negotiation, and BACIWA Board Resolution No. 115, series of 2019, with the ultimate prayer to declare such agreements, certificates and terms, and resolutions null and void.

Dilag said the JVA is regular, valid and legal.

“Based on the opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel in its Resolution No. 126, series of 2020, the JVA entered into by BACIWA with PrimeWater shall constitute legal, valid and binding obligations and are enforceable according to its terms and conditions,” he said.

Dilag said BACIWA has also complied with all the suggestions and recommendations of the OGCC, in its contract review as affirmed by GCC Elpidio Vega on its August 6 letter to him.

The JVA of BACIWA and PrimeWater is primarily aimed to improve the services of the water district to its consumers, without abandoning its interest and that of its employees.

Gamboa said their lead counsel, Leon Moya will be filing the petition before the Regional Trial Court.

He said the contract between BACIWA and PrimeWater is deemed onerous because it is a total takeover and handover of the water utility firm without the latter having to infuse additional capital.

BACIWA contracted a P6.3 billion 25-year JVA with Villar-owned PrimeWater and the signing of the deal was announced by Dilag and Sabater on July 18 at O’Hotel in Bacolod City.

Gamboa said the JVA is just plain and simple privatization of BACIWA with PrimeWater, the latter not having to bring additional water resources or supply nor infuse additional capital but will have full use of all the facilities of the water utility firm and water resources. So PrimeWater is impliedly the owner of BACIWA.

He said that the BACIWA privatization in the guise of a JVA cannot be denied as Sabater declared during a press conference on July 18 that once they receive the notice to proceed, the project will begin on November 1, wherein they will be incharge of the daily operation of BACIWA’s water supply system.

Gamboa said it is quite predictable that the next move of PrmimeWater is to avail of loans against BACIWA’s receivables, collections, income, good financial standing and track record being a Treiple-A water district, and pass on the cost to Bacolod’s water consumers, which include 12 percent VAT and all other charges, taxes and fees, among others.

As of yesterday, there were about 12 barangays pushing for the nullification of the contract and about 25,000 consumers have signed a petition opposing the JVA, he said.

Amlig Tubig is also planning to file charges for graft and corruption against the members of the BACIWA Board and its management. They might also file a separate complaint before the Ombudsman, Gamboa added.

Social Action Center director Fr. Cris Gonzales said they are supporting Amlig Tubig since this is not the cause of the consumers but also of the Church. Water is a basic need and human right.

“One of our basic rights is to have access to free, safe, and potable water,” he said.

Amlig Tubig convenor Loredgeline Jones said people in public service are supposed to protect the rights of the people. But in this case, they were forced to make a stand because they saw that the people who are supposed to protect the consumers are the ones to who sold their rights.*

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