POSTSCRIPT / May 14, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Okay BBL as is, or pass to next admin

TO SPARE the nation further stress brought on by the bitter disagreements on the proposed creation of a Bangsamoro federal state in Muslim Mindanao, let us choose quickly one of two final options:

• Pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law as originally submitted by Malacañang and its partner the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), then test its constitutionality before the Supreme Court.

• Or wind up the congressional hearings, drop the BBL measure and leave the matter to the next administration to act upon.

Either way, the BBL distraction is pushed out of the way. The Aquino administration would then have no more excuse for not attending to the litany of here-and-now problems as listed yesterday by our colleague Jarius Bondoc.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front will reject a watered down BBL anyway. There is, therefore, no point in quarreling over substantive amendments and rushing the bill’s approval before the Congress adjourns its current session on June 12.

Forewarned, the military, the police and civilian militia should prepare for the intensified hostilities that the revolutionary MILF has threatened to launch if the government does not give it the Bangsamoro intact as promised by Malacañang.

• MILF, KL now know they’ve been had

BY THIS TIME, the MILF must have realized that it was hoodwinked by Malacañang into thinking it was negotiating as the “GRP” (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) although it was just a third leg of a tripartite structure.

The mere fact that the Congress is massively rewriting the BBL draft and the Supreme Court is waiting to rule on its constitutionality should impress on the MILF and its principals in Kuala Lumpur that Malacañang and its varsity team are not the “GRP” they had claimed to be.

As early as now, meanwhile, charges can be readied for filing against treasonous officials selling Central Mindanao and Sulu to local agents of Malaysia in the guise of searching for peace.

Sensing failure in its attempt to dismember Mindanao using the MILF, Kuala Lumpur is trying another tack by tantalizing Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari, of Tausug roots, with an offer to help revive his vision of a “Bangsamoro Republik” with Sabah thrown in.

• Bangsamoro as election issue in 2016

ON WHAT to do with the MILF’s Bangsamoro that is on the table, it appears that dropping it and letting the next administration pick it up, if it wants, is the better option for this battered nation.

With just a year to go before he steps down, President Noynoy Aquino should not force the approval of what is starting to smell like a midnight deal.

If he is that stubborn, he can adopt the creation of the MILF’s Bangsamoro invested with the elements of a nascent Islamic state as the major plank of the election platform of the administration’s presidential candidate next year.

Let his anointed one, most likely DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, rise or fall on the Bangsamoro issue.

Roxas had a chance to distance himself from the Bangsamoro question after the Mamasapano massacre of last Jan. 25, but he missed it. We now presume he is for the original BBL like his Palace patron.

• Water rates differ in 2 MWSS zones

A BASIC problem in the nation’s capital is the seeming inevitability and inconsistency of the rise in the rates of water service.

For instance, Aling Nena of Fairview pays P864 for her monthly household water consumption of 30 cubic meters while her cousin Celing in Cubao, also in Quezon City, pays only P618 for the same volume.

And if arbitration decisions on questions over such items as rates and taxes are carried out, the disparity would grow even bigger – with Nena paying P944 (excluding currency exchange rate adjustment) and Celing only P603 for the same 30 cubic feet of water.

The easy explanation is that Nena is served by Maynilad Water while Celing draws from Manila Water. Way back in 1997, the service area of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System was privatized and split into two zones.

In the bidding, the West zone went to Maynilad and the East to Manila Water. While the terms of their concession contracts were generally similar, some variations in actual operations crept in with time.

• Uneven ICC decisions for Maynilad, Manila

MORE questions on tariff arose after the International Chamber of Commerce ruled differently in separate arbitration decisions: one upholding Maynilad’s proposed increase of P4.06 per cubic meter while the other denying Manila Water’s proposal and instead decided on a reduction of P2.77 per cubic meter.

The issue regarding price changes is often policy-driven. Factors such as infrastructure development and investment recovery, financial agreements between companies and the government affect sustainability and profitability.

The rules and regulations are in the concession agreement that both companies signed before the bidding in 1997. Under the contract, MWSS would remain the public utility, while the concessionaires would be its agents and contractors.

Each concessionaire has been spending more than P100 billion since then to ensure sustainability of water supply and improve waste water services.

But in time, the MWSS told the concessionaires to bring down water rates, which led both to bring the matter for arbitration at the ICC. The results were contrasting — the ICC ruled in favor of Maynilad’s proposal, while Manila Water was denied its petition. How is that?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 14, 2015)

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