‘Takeover is no partnership investment’

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr., denounced the move of the Bacolod Water District’s (Baciwa) Board of Directors (BOD) to engage a private water firm in what he claimed as an onerous joint venture agreement.

Gamboa labelled the joint venture agreement a “takeover” and not a “partnership investment,” contrary to the claims of the BOD.

Gamboa issued this statement in a public forum convened by Amlig Tubig on the Privatization of the Bacolod City Water District this week.

Gamboa also said that the BOD engaged a private water utility company that has already taken over more than 60 water utilities all over the country in the span of 4 years, “thus its financial track record and viability have not been established yet and their success rate is reportedly zero as of now.”

Worst, according to him, is that the private firm will use Baciwa as its “milking cow because they would not commit and infuse capital until the creation or formation of the joint-venture company and therefore would utilize existing Baciwa assets, facilities, equipment, high volume water consumer market network, strong financial liquidity to avail of loans and other financial assistance.”

He also raised several adverse Commission on Audit (COA) findings on the private water firm which include “poor project implementation, non-compliance of government guidelines, non-compliance of the provisions of contracts, financial ineligibility, franchise taxes violations, audit suspension and disallowances, unsettled performance bond, among others.”

Despite the BOD’s denials of privatization, Gamboa argued that the private water firm offered to transition Baciwa employees from GSIS to SSS status, thus “transforming their security of tenure under the Civil Service Law to the trust and confidence coverage under the Philippine Labor Law.”

He also said that employees are being offered a hefty 450 percent early retirement option and/or separation pay and that not more than 20 Baciwa employees will be retained as part of the agreement.

Only the Baciwa BOD will be retained to monitor the undertaken project and prime water will entirely control, supervise and manage the water district.

Gamboa further said that these all the more reinforce the fact that a “takeover and not a partnership investment” package is in the offing.