Baciwa’s secrets – 2

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

THERE are several issues that need to be addressed by Baciwa. Information says that the water district’s Joint Venture Selection Committee has already issued a “Certification of Successful Negotiations” with Prime Water which means that the conditions submitted by Prime Water have been thoroughly studied and agreed.It also means that Baciwa’s counteroffer had been accepted by Prime Water. We shall discuss whether the agreed terms are “onerous, disadvantageous and detrimental to the best interest of the public, the employees and the water district” as the opposition had claimed.

It has been the defense of Baciwa that they cannot reveal the terms because they are still negotiating. So now that the Committee has certified that they have successfully negotiated, what are the terms? Baciwa must now divulge the conditions “successfully negotiated”. There is no more excuse for silence.

A failure to tell the public means that the “negotiation” was only a smokescreen to keep the details secret. Is not Baciwa lying to its customers or is it afraid that the terms, once revealed will be proven disastrous to the consumers?

Let’s consider the side of the opposition.

“The Baciwa chose the option of entering into PPP (Public-Private Partnership) and disregarded other viable options like entering into separate joint ventures for bulk water, for wastewater management, borrowing money from GFIs (Government Financing Institutions) or from LWUA (Local Water Utilities Administration) for expansion, capacity building, technological advancement, and non-revenue water reduction, or entering into agency to agency contracts with other water districts or government agencies for bulk water.”

It is clear Baciwa had plenty of options, so why did it limit its choice to only one? Why did it wait for “unsolicited proposal” when it could have taken steps earlier to solve its problems? Could it be incompetence, lack of imagination, pure sloth, there were “inducements” in a PPP, or as I cited before, “order ni mayor”?

The list of options has a common character; they ensure the “employees’ security of tenure that will not be compromised”.

The nature of the PPP that Baciwa and Prime Water had negotiated will result in the privatization of the water district. This has been denied, ad nauseam, but the denial ran counter to what emerged from the negotiation. It seems that the board of directions are speaking with “forked tongue” as the American Indians would call such a manner of talking. In plain language, they are not telling the whole truth and half the truth is not the truth at all. The board called the new arrangement as “partnership” but that is cover for what the agreement truly is – privatization of the water district.

The privatization of Baciwa has many consequences. Presently, the workers of Baciwa are government employees but once privatized they will become private business employees. They will be taken out of the Government Service Insurance System or GSIS and the Civil Service Commission and transferred to the Social Security System and governed by the rules of Labor Code under the Department of Labor.

The privileges and benefits under the GSIS are better than that of the SSS. In effect, Baciwa employees would be disadvantaged.

According to the information, the chairman of the Baciwa Joint Venture Selection Committee, Engr. Samuel S. Penado said that “there is both a management and employees buy out”.

If there is no privatization, meaning, the water district will remain a government corporation, why should there be a “buy out”? It is clear the nature of the employment of the personnel will change. Those who will be bought will have to go and those who remain will be absorbed by the new management of the joint venture.

The information says that the offer to “retire” is 200% of basic salary as a “premium”. The Baciwa offer of incentive to retiree is “only P150%”. In the proposed joint venture, “Prime Water will pay the 250% retirement pay and BACIWA will be obliged to pay 150%. In effect, the retiring employee will receive 400% of salary as early retirement pay.” However, there is a catch: “The 250% payment will be charged to the consumers”.

This offer can make the retiree an instant millionaire, “the biggest motivator why some top management managers want the JVA to be signed.” Indeed, who does not want to be a millionaire? No sweat; somebody’s paying!

We’ll continue next week.