Higher water rates

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

Once the Bacolod Water District is privatized or placed under the control and management of a private company, the concessionaires can expect a higher rate.

That goes without saying because private companies invest their funds not to be generous or the owners to be rewarded with a place in heaven but to gain. They go into business with only one thing in mind – the ROI, the financial returns to their investments, the bigger the better. As they say money begets money; businessmen will not spend or invest money unless it increases and multiplies.

Understandably the members of the Bacolod City Water District Employees Union are against any joint venture with a private company because they believe that it should be the government that should manage Baciwa. That’s the opinion of its president, Leny Espina.

For months the Baciwa board had been reported to be studying and now finalizing the “terms of reference” of its contract with Prime Water that they intend to finish by the end of this month. The problem with the terms of reference is that it is a top secret so nobody except the inner cabal knows its content.

The response of Baciwa chairman, Lorendo Dilag to written and broadcast demand for transparency is “confidentiality” which simply means, this is none of your business. This is just between us and Prime Water. That settles it then – the deal is just between Baciwa and the private proponent. This government owned corporation has now become a private domain of its board and cabal who have not invested a single centavo in Baciwa but draws compensation that is also a secret.

They will just tell the public once the deal is cut. If the public likes it, they can stay connected with Baciwa even if the rates are higher, or they can disconnect and look for their own water source.

This does not mean the public is impotent in the face of this arrogance. Some sectors are not taking the Baciwa stance sitting down and like dogs waiting for crumbs under the table of Dilag and cohorts. As I always quote – silence and inaction is consent.

Two quotes from essayists apply also to the Baciwa concessionaires:“Your silence will not protect you.” (Audre Lord, a black intellectual who labored for equality) and “Silence is the real crime against humanity” (Nadezhda Mandelstam, who fought for her husband persecuted by Joseph Stalin). If the people of Bacolod fail to rise and oppose this deal, then they agree to higher rates.

Indeed, people will accept a higher price for their water because water is more vital for the support of life and decent living. They can do without electricity even in great difficulty but not water.

The most adversely affected will be those who cannot afford a deep well but the influential citizens of Bacolod have their own water source. If fight for this issue is to be waged, it must come from the citizenry who would be greatly disadvantaged. The people of Bacolod cannot depend on the government they voted last month because the members of the Baciwa board are members of the Grupo Progreso cabal.

Baciwa is a government monopoly and therefore the public, however cannot be denied their rights to demand transparency. If Baciwa refuses then the only option is to bring this matter elsewhere – the streets, civil disobedience like paying under protest by depositing their payments to the courts rather than Baciwa or a demand for investigation by higher authority.

There are talks that Party List Cong. Stephen Paduano will file a resolution for a congressional investigation. This is a right move and will give Councilor Jun Gamboa and other oppositors opportunity to present their documents and arguments.

Paduano’s move is an excellent option than the streets or civil disobedience that will require mass mobilization, a course of action that Baciwa knows is difficult. But a congressional inquiry will force Baciwa to reveal the proposed “terms of reference” and even explain the other issues that Baciwa has failed to justify, like the multi-billion loans that have not brought additional water.

Also interesting is the water source of the different malls and huge buildings in Bacolod. There are reports that they have top priority in Baciwa or have huge pumps and deep wells that endanger the aquifer of Bacolod.

We pause for a week.