Baciwa officials defend joint venture anew

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Bacolod City Water District director Mona Dia Jardin said the joint venture of the water utility firm with Prime Water Infrastructure Inc. is not privatization but a contractual joint venture.

Jardin, who was among the Baciwa officials who attended a committee hearing called by Councilor Archie Baribar last week, also said they are bound by the joint venture agreement (JVA) and that Baciwa will retain its identity as a Government-Owned and Controlled Corporation (OGCC).

Earlier, AmligTubig, an alliance of concerned water consumers, reiterated its call on Baciwa to end its negotiations with Prime Water to spare the people of Bacolod City from what they claim is a disadvantageous setup.

Amlig Tubig convenor and City Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr. expressed apprehension over the joint venture agreement saying that the turnover of the whole operation of Baciwa to the private firm is practically privatizing the water utility firm.

But Jardin said that the agreement provides for a contract monitoring unit (CMU) that will see to it that key performance indicators are complied with by Prime Water. If it fails to comply, it could be penalized and the contract nullified.

She also said that Prime Water will be investing P6.3 billion in the project.

Jardin lamented that the financial resources of Baciwa, which is dependent on consumers, cannot finance the improvement of their service.

The water rates are also fixed in the joint venture agreement, contrary to claims of critics that the rates will go up in the joint venture.

Meanwhile, Baciwa assistant general manager for administration Samuel Penado said they submitted documents on Feb. 21 to the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, which has one month to review it.

If the review is positive, Baciwa can proceed with the joint venture contract and issue a notice to proceed to Prime Water.

Penado said that after the notice to proceed has been issued, the three-month transition period starts.

If everything is in order in July, then Prime Water will assume the operation of the water district, he added.