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Consumer group slams MWSS approval of rate hike for Manila Water, Maynilad

Consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. on Sunday slammed the approval of the rate increase of water concessionaires in Metro Manila next year, which appeared to have been "doubled" by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, former Trade Undersecretary and now Laban Konsyumer Inc. president Victorio Mario Dimagiba said MWSS should not have factored in inflation or consumer price index in increasing the rates of its concessionaires Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc.

Dimagabi said that the rate rebasing, which happened last October, already included inflation in it.

"Ang ginamit nila doon sa business plan na sinubmit ng dalawang concessionaire, ginamit lang nila doon ay 3 percent [sa rate rebasing]. Kasi 'yun naman 'yung median, 'yung target ng pamahalaan na 2 to 4 percent," he said.

"Fair na 'yun at mababa 'yun. Pero bakit ginamitan ng inflation itong rate e katatapos lang ng rate rebasing na may inflation na at 3 percent? Double whammy yata 'yun," he added.

Following the approval of the rate hike, Manila Water will increase its rate by P0.64 centavos per cubic meter. Maynilad is raising its rate by P1.48 per cubic meter.

This means that a household consuming 10 cubic meters a month would have to pay an additional P3.34 for Manila Water customers and P5.30 for Maynilad consumers.

But according to Dimagiba, rates for water concessioners should not increase next year as a result of the rate rebasing for Manila Water and Maynilad for the next years.

"In fact, nag-increase na tayo ng singil sa tubig this year, October, next year wala and then 2020, 2021, 2022," he said.

"Ang sabi nga nila para matulungan ang mga consumers e inutay-utay nila nang apat na gives. That was well stated," he added.

At the same time, Dimagabi wondered why MWSS factored in the consumer price index when the foreign currency differential adjustment (FCDA) has gone down.

The FCDA, according to the MWSS website, is a mechanism used to adjust the water rates due to the fluctuation in the foreign exchange rates.

"The Concessionaires assumed the entire debt service obligation of MWSS, most of which were denominated in foreign currency. FCDA also covers the foreign currency denominated loans obtained by the Concessionaires," the MWSS website said.

Dimagiba said he would write a letter to MWSS regulatory officer Patrick Lester Ty about the rate increase.

He said it was Ty who made the recommendation for the rate increase which was approved by the MWSS board.

"Tatanungin ko sa kanya, bakit ka nag-apply ng inflation e may inflation na 'yung rate increases natin for the next five years? At saka why did you use a higher inflation? Kasi ramdam ko na may mali e," Dimagabi said. —Erwin Colcol/KG, GMA News