The chairman of the board of the Bacolod City Water District (BACIWA) said he and other directors are against privatization and the proposed partnership with a private firm will not result to such status.
Atty. Lorendo K. Dilag at the same time said the joint venture with Prime Water is not yet final because other firms will still have the chance to contest the Villar group’s offer.
Dilag during Wednesday’s press conference at O’Hotel also said the water district will be transparent when it enters into a joint venture agreement with a private firm to improve its water supply and facilities.
“There is definitely transparency on this matter. We are doing this for the benefit of the City of Bacolod. We press on because our cause is just. We are on the right track,” Board chairman Dilag said, adding that the process is constantly reviewed by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).
Dilag made the assurance amid apprehensions and concerns raised by employees and consumers on such a move.
As of yesterday, the joint venture selection committee was drafting the terms of reference for the bidding to challenge the unsolicited proposal of Villar Group’s PrimeWater Infrastructure Corporation.
In 2016, Baciwa received three unsolicited proposals, but only PrimeWater was able to pass the legal, technical and financial requirements. Still, other proponents can submit bidding documents to challenge the former’s proposal.
Dilag said considering that they do not have enough funds for expansion and improvement of services, the board of directors considered a joint venture with a private proponent.
He pointed out that through the partnership, Baciwa aims to improve water availability to 24 hours-seven days a week to existing consumers and new growth areas; install or construct additional transmission and distribution lines supported with technically advanced infrastructure, and replace or rehabilitate aging infrastructure and facilities.
Baciwa also seeks to reduce non-revenue to acceptable industry standards, provide efficient and responsive customer service, and provide septage management system for sanitary de-sludging and treatment services, he added.
Dilag also assured the residents that Baciwa will not be privatized and any increase in water rates can only be done by the joint venture upon the approval of the Local Water Utilities Administration, and after public hearings are held.
Meanwhile, Board director Mona Dia Jardin during the presscon said Baciwa “really needs finances to improve (its) service”.
“That is why the board of directors opted for a public-private partnership or a joint venture to speed up the delivery of service to the people. It will add up to better customer service,” she added.
Jenelyn Gemora, assistant general manager for operations, said the proposed partnership will not involve the sale of any assets of Baciwa since it will be a contractual joint venture.
“All assets will still be owned by Baciwa. We will just outsource the development and they will infuse capitalization. At the end of the 25-year-contract period, these assets will all be returned to Baciwa,” she said.
Gemora said all Baciwa employees will be absorbed by the joint venture partner or they may also opt to retire and avail of the retirement package and livelihood assistance.
“No one will lose his or her job,” she added.
On the other hand, Samuel Penado, assistant general manager for administration, said if no one else pre-qualifies, the selection committee will no longer evaluate the other proponents.
“Therefore, two months after the publication (for bidding in August), we can award the project to PrimeWater. By first week of October, we will know,” he added.
Gemora added that by the time the contract ends, Baciwa would have served 92 to 95 percent of the total population of Bacolod, from the current 54 percent.
To date, Baciwa has 57,000 water concessionaires.* (Nanette Guadalquiver, w/report from Edith Colmo via NDB)