The Water for the People Network (WPN) is dismayed that the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System – Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO) would not readily reveal the numbers involving water companies’ petitions for tariff increases in public consultations that the MWSS-RO itself convened this week. The group said that by doing so, the government agency effectively hindered the consumers’ right to know. Instead of genuinely consulting the people, it seemed to be conditioning the public to blindly accept the impending rate hikes based on the petitions of the Manila Water Company (Manila Water) and Maynilad Water Services Inc. (Maynilad), said the group.
A concession agreement (CA) between government and water concessionaires warrants the rate rebasing process every five years. The process pertains to the determination of new tariffs based on the Manila Water and Maynilad’s past and future expenses, as well as a rate of return that will allow the firms to recover their investments. The MWSS-RO has conducted public consultations before and during the past rate rebasing periods purportedly to grasp the public pulse with regard to the implementation of new tariffs. The private companies’ petitions have historically been approved, resulting in water rates increasing manyfold through the years, except during the 2013 rate rebasing period.
In September 2013, the MWSS prohibited Maynilad and Manila Water to collect their corporate income taxes and company incentives such as recreation and travel expenses through pass-on charges. Hence, the rate rebasing results reflected amounts lower than both companies’ petitioned rates.
Teddy Casiño, WPN spokesperson, said, “Show us the numbers. If water regulators truly prioritize public interest and want consumers involved in the rate rebasing process, they should make information in Maynilad and Manila Water’s petitions readily available to the public. Otherwise, these public consultations are a PR gimmick.”
During this period’s rate rebasing public consultations, water regulators and the consultants they hired to review water concessionaries’ proposals were reluctant to share pertinent details such as the rate increases requested and basis for the rates such as company earnings, expenditures, and future expenses. They were also hesitant to answer if questionable charges prohibited in the 2013 rate rebasing process were also included.
WPN said that without vital rate rebasing information from the MWSS-RO, water consumers will be left in the dark and made vulnerable to the water companies’ onerous fees.
The group urged water regulators to uphold their mandate to protect public interest and ensure that Maynilad and Manila Water will not pass on unwarranted expenses to already burdened water consumers. ###