Baciwa board refutes privatization yarn

BACIWA board chairman Atty.Lorendo Dilag (left) answers issues raised at the impending joint venture with a private water firm in a press conference on July 10, 2019. Also in photo are Baciwa Director Mona Dia Jardin, Engr. Jenelyn Gemora and Engr. Samuel Pinado. (Dolly Yasa)

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – The board of directors of the Bacolod City Water District (Baciwa) refuted claims that the impending joint venture with a private water firm will lead to its privatization.

Atty. Lorendo Dilag, chairman of the Baciwa board, together with Director Mona Dia Jardin, Engr.Jenelyn Gemora and Engr.  Samuel Pinado, assistant general managers for operation and administration, respectively, held a press conference on July 10, 2019 to answer issues surrounding the joint venture with Prime Water.

Dilag clarified that for now, only Prime Water has submitted an unsolicited proposal for the distribution services.

He added that if other firms are interested, their offers will be subjected to “competitive challenge.”

Baciwa will not be privatized,” Dilag assured.

He also said that Baciwa will still be under the advice and guidance of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and that the proposed Joint Venture Agreement is not permanent.

“It is only up to 25 years after which all properties and assets of the Joint Venture shall be donated and turned over free of charge or at no cost to Baciwa,” he added.

As to the water rates, Jardin said rate adjustments will only take effect upon approval of the Local Water Utilities Administration LWUA and after public hearings have been conducted.

Jardin added that the water rate increase is not at the discretion of the proposed Joint Venture Partnership.

She also said that water rates should be increased because “Baciwa needs funds” and they have not increased rates for some time.

Jardin said all Baciwa employees not included in the reorganization shall be absorbed by the Joint Venture partner without diminution of remuneration.

She added that all absorbed employees shall enjoy security of tenure and their rights will be protected under labor laws and regulations.

Jardin said employees have the option to retire and avail of the retirement incentive and livelihood assistance offered by the Joint Venture Partner.

Gemora on her part said the joint venture aims to improve potable water availability to 24 hours seven days a week with minimum pressure of 10 pound per square inch (psi).

She further said that aging infrastructure and facilities will be replaced and rehabilitated to reduce non-revenue water (NRW) or supply lost to leaks and pilferage.

The Baciwa employees union continue to hold protest action every noon to oppose the joint venture which they claim will lead to privatization, loss of jobs for the employees, and higher water rates.