Will the Villars take over Baciwa?

IN MY last column on the issues concerning the Bacolod Water District, I mentioned thehigh possibility that Prime Water, the company owned by the family of Senator Cynthia Villar will probably take over Baciwa in what is dubbed as a joint venture. During the Christmas break, I had the opportunity to talk with a friend who has inside knowledge of what is going on in the water district.

The takeover is reportedly upon the instruction of Mayor Evelio Leonardia. According to our source inside the district, Baciwa Chairman Lorendo Dilag told the officials that the choice of Prime Water is “order ni meyor”. And so as the song runs, “so shall it be.” Or as the genie responded to Alladin, “Your wish is my command.”

Information from Baciwa and the water industry tell me that Leonardia is already compromised with the senator. How? Don’t ask! Just watch because the election is close by and the senator and Leonardia are both running for reelection. What does that imply? If you don’t like the deal or the arrangement, you can always refuse to vote for them and campaign for others to do the same.

Don’t underestimate your vote and capability to convince or get others. You got families and friends or employees. Consider that water is not only a private need but also of public interest that will have impact in your daily life.At the least by your negative vote and refusal to be part of this kind of deal youalready won a clean conscience.

I was informed that this is also the sentiment among some of the employees ofthe water district- not to vote for them. However, others are resigned to the fact that they will be displaced and they are already computing how much they would be entitled when they leave Baciwa.

The Prime Water takeover is seen as privatization since it will definitely bring in its own people. Whether the Villar people will be better is not certain. Their performance in other water districts in which it has reportedly reached 50 is reportedly not exemplary.

As I mentioned last year, the takeover maybe challenged legally. The choice of Prime Water was premised on the decision of a committee that the first proponent, Metro Pacific is not qualified. The supposed reason is that Metro Pacific is not wholly Filipino-owned. That seems to fly out into the cosmos because last year, Metro Pacific was given the contract by a water district in Iloilo.

Will Metro Pacific yield also to the “order ni mayor”? All the members of the Baciwa board are appointees of Leonardia and if we study them closely, they are loyalists, not the competent mandatory nominees of the various sectors. I doubt strongly whether they will have the guts to say “no” to Leonardia even if the transaction is legally questionable, like ignoring the processes mandated by law.

Information says that Metro Pacific is dismayed (just a nice description) with the process of being set aside with a disqualification that was not considered in other districts. This means that the move to the second proponent, Prime Water was a done deal. Will Metro Pacific only murmur in the corner like a pup?

That is why people ask,”whatever happened to Metro Pacific”asto act this way?Is thepressure so great that an internationalcompany can succumb without lifting a finger to defend its rights?

Ah, but companies of this nature do not fight City Hall, more so the Senate and the Department of Public Works and Highways! Thus, the silence of the lambs speaks loudly.

But the waterconsumersofBacolodshould notbe complacentunless they want to open the door to what Baciwa employees predict – higher water rates. Indeed, people deserve the kind of government they allow to rule over them. As one historian rightly puts it, some people love their chains and a psychologist describes it as “loving one’smisery”.

Of course the fight is not over and some courageous souls intend to stop this takeover. I am not at liberty to write about them but what is known is that the process is not yet completed. There is still the third proponent, that of the Ayala. However, can this conglomerate fight City Hall, the Senate and DPWH combined power?