Gov’t eyeing privatization of water utilities, warn Mindanao water districts

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 August) — The public-private partnership (PPP) program of the national government and the water sector reform bills now pending in Congress are all roadmaps to privatization, employees of 10 water districts from different parts of Mindanao said.

Senator Edgardo Angara has filed Senate Bill 2997, while Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles and Rep. Romeo Quinto have sponsored House Bill 5497 for this purpose, they added.

Rudy Aranjuez, president of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Davao City Water District (Namadacwad) said both measures are schemes of the Aquino administration to pass to the private sector the responsibility to provide basic social services such as water.

Alejo S. Roxas, assistant general manager for operations of the Zamboanga City Water District, said they have to improve their services to preempt the entry of private water distribution firms
through the PPP scheme.

He admitted that they are serving only 52 out of the total 98 villages in Zamboanga City.

He cited that they passed a position paper against the water service privatization bills and had asked the city council to also pass a similar resolution.

Roxas was among the participants to the first Mindanao conference of employees and managers of water districts held here last week.

Organized by Namadacwad, the conference was participated in by water districts of Davao, Tagum, Bislig, Cagayan de Oro, Digos, Cotabato and Polomolok cities, and Samal town in Davao del Norte and Lebak town in Sultan Kudarat.

Silvio Decastro Jr., vice president of the Bislig Water District Workers’ Union said they are opposing the privatization of water districts because it will lead to massive layoffs of permanent

He said it is a common practice of private companies to replace old employees with young ones.

Edeniro Reyes, president of the Cotabato City Water District Labor Union, said that with privatization, workers will be subject to contractualization.

He said contractualization will be disadvantageous to them unlike their present status as government employees with better benefits and security of tenure.

Ferdinand Salvacion, president of Samahang Manggagawa ng Digos Water District, said the privatization of water districts now looms as a big possibility with some firms eyeing to invest in these utilities.

Aranjuez said they are planning to conduct another conference to include all other water districts in Mindanao for more discussion on the issue of privatizing water utilities. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)