PrimeWater takes control of Bacolod water operation

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The Villar Group’s PrimeWater Infrastructure Inc. will invest a total of P1.6 billion to improve the water supply system in Bacolod City during the first five years of its 25-year joint venture agreement with the Bacolod City Water District.

          The Manila-based utility firm yesterday took over the operation and management of Baciwa after the latter’s Board of Directors gave it the green light to proceed with the takeover Friday afternoon, hours after the Regional Trial Court Branch 45 dismissed the petition seeking to nullify the contract between the two parties.

          Baciwa Board chairman, lawyer Lorendo Dilag, said he believes that the deal — which is expected to bring in over P6 billion in investments from PrimeWater — is “necessary, practical and beneficial” for Bacolod.

          Citing figures, Dilag said that the partner-firm will spend P293 million to develop the city’s water supply system for the first year alone.

          Some P258 million has been allotted for the second year, P308 million – third year, P405 million – fourth year, and P418 million for the fifth year.

          “From this alone, you can see the benefits which will accrue for the City of Bacolod. At the end of the 25th year, PrimeWater will be spending a total amount of no less than P6 billion, which Baciwa cannot definitely get on its own,” he said.

          PrimeWater vice president Romeo Sabater said that after Baciwa officials received a copy of the court order on Friday, they called their team to a meeting and informed them that the Board has passed a resolution allowing them to proceed with the takeover.

TAKEOVER ACCEPTED

          “We formally accepted the takeover of Baciwa. With that, officially, we will be here in the next 25 years,” Sabater told reporters Friday night.

          The joint venture agreement, signed by both parties on July 17 this year, was set to take effect on Nov. 1, but on Oct. 27, RTC Branch 45 Presiding Judge Phoebe Gargantiel-Balbin granted the temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr. and his co-petitioners from consumers group Amlig Tubig.

          After the hearing on Nov. 9, the court issued a seven-page order dated Nov. 11, dismissing the Gamboa group’s petition for declaratory relief and declaration of the nullity of the contract “for failure to state a cause of action”.

          “In the present case, the petitioners as consumers did not specifically state what rights of theirs would be affected or prejudiced by the JVA. They simply alleged in general terms that their contractual rights as consumers would be affected,” the order stated.

          The court denied as well the ancillary prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and lifted the TRO issued on Oct. 27.

          Sabater, who was joined by legal counsel Robel Lomibao, said that in partnership with Baciwa, PrimeWater will “address the water crisis the city is facing right now”.

          At present, only 50 percent of residential or domestic consumers in Bacolod have access to Baciwa’s water system, he noted.

          “The other half is getting water elsewhere. This is very inconvenient and very traumatic to consumers of Bacolod. We saw that need and that need should be addressed now. PrimeWater is capable of doing its services to address this concern,” Sabater added.

          He also assured the Baciwa consumers that PrimeWater will not impose a rate increase in the next 12 months, or until Nov. 12, 2021.*PNA

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