Mindanao water districts say no to privatization of utilities

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/21 June) – Water utilities all over Mindanao are against the plan to reorganize and privatize the water  districts in the country.

Engr. Benjamin R. Ensomo Jr., chair of the Mindanao Association of Water Districts (MAWD) and general manager of Surigao Metropolitan Water District, said they are opposing the Senate Bill 2997 (Water Sector Reform Act) filed October last year, supposedly to institute reforms in the water industry.

Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, the bill’s proponent, said water districts in the country have failed to serve better and quality water to the consumers for the last 38 years.

But Ensomo said Angara’s claim has no basis.

The reorganization of the water districts, he said, is not the answer to give the consumers better and safe drinking water.

Ensomo stressed that once water districts are privatized, the consuming public will have to deal with higher water bills, noting that water utilities would only then think of profit once privatized, add to that incorporating taxes to the bills. For now, water districts are exempt from paying taxes.

Aside from the increase in water bill, Ensomo said privatization would bring more corruption because financial records cannot anymore be accessed by the public.

“[Privatization] is for the advantage of capitalists and private investors and would be for the disadvantage of the consuming public,” Ensomo stressed.

He said the 831 water districts in the country are all government-owned and controlled corporations.

“As GOCC we are not receiving any help from the National Treasury. We receive loans from the Local Water Utilities Administration for our projects despite the high interest,” he said, noting that they are always able to pay their obligations and able to sustain service to consumers.

He added that 120 local water utilities are strongly opposing Senate Bill 2997, which is now scheduled for second reading in the Senate. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)