POSTSCRIPT / May 21, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Don’t worry on BBL. God watches, waits

ONE BRIGHT lining in the dark cloud of Bangsamoro hovering over Muslim Mindanao is that the debate on it has roused the population that is normally engrossed not with statecraft but with making a living in difficult times.

Public awakening to the long-term implications of carving out a Moro nation in the heart of Mindanao is mainly a result of the full media coverage of the congressional deliberations on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Public interest is evident in the depth and quality of the discussions in neighborhood forums, coffee shop talk, and the tenor and trends of commentaries in mainstream and social media.

In a recent symposium at the Manila Golf Club in Makati, for instance, the air was thick with objections to the BBL and suspicion over the motivations of its proponents.

The views expressed validated partly the recent findings of a survey group that only 23 percent of Filipino adults favor the BBL. Discounting the known pro-Palace bias of the pollster, the figure it reported should be shaved to maybe just 17 percent.

One can sense a growing thinking that if the members of the Congress refuse to vote according to the collective wishes of the people they are supposed to represent, alternative action elsewhere should be taken.

Of late, focus has been on the deliberations of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL and its taking days off to consult the taskmaster monitoring their performance from Malacañang.

• House to deliver BBL bill on time

WATCHING House proceedings, one gets the feeling that as far as the chamber is concerned, the BBL will be delivered on a silver platter on schedule. The valiant opposition, personified by Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat, will be steamrollered by the BBL money and machine.

With the House already sold to the BBL, will the Senate and even the Supreme Court be the next to fall?

The battle lines in the Senate are not yet clearly drawn. The committee chaired by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos conducting hearings still has to write a report, but he does not seem to be as pressured as his House counterpart Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

There is talk, btw, that with Rodriguez’s gathering his team in Malacañang for pep talk and later dismantling his own objections to speed up committee action, the gentleman from CdO is now sure of a prime slot in the Liberal Party senatorial slate in 2016.

After the two chambers in the Congress give the BBL the green light, there remain the hurdle of a local plebiscite and the certainty that its constitutionality will be challenged before the Supreme Court.

Despite widespread objections, President Noynoy Aquino still seems to enjoy an even chance of delivering the Bangsamoro gift that he has promised to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its Malaysian patrons.

With the marching orders, plus the needed fuel, already dispatched to dissolve objections, everything looks set for including the birth of the Bangsamoro in the President’s valedictory State of the Nation Address on July 27.

But, of course, even the best laid out plans of men have a way of going awry. My lola used to admonish us with unflinching faith: God watches and waits.

• Water rates to rise/fall, depending on area

WHILE an increase of P1.35 per cubic meter in water rates will be charged starting June 1 by Maynilad Water on the West zone of the metropolis, the rate of Manila Water in the adjoining East zone will be cut by P2.77 over three years.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System said the first cut in Manila Water rates, to be reflected in July bills, will amount to P1.66 per cubic meter, followed by a P0.55 cut in 2016 and another P0.55 cut in 2017.

The MWSS recently won a case against Manila Water in an international arbitration court. The water firm, owned by the Ayala group, said it would not appeal the case.

Like in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesilla that divided between Spain and Portugal the lands newly discovered by explorers, the MWSS service area in 1997 was divided between Maynilad (West zone) and Manila Water (East).

Manila Water’s (East) area includes parts of Quezon City, Makati, Taguig, Pateros, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan, Mandaluyong, the southeast of Manila, as well as Rizal province.

Maynilad (West) serves the cities of Manila (except portions of San Andres and Sta. Ana), Caloocan, Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, Navotas, Malabon, parts of Quezon City and Makati, as well as Cavite City, Bacoor City, Imus, Kawit, Noveleta and Rosario in Cavite.

• Water firms to gov’t: Reimburse losses

THE TWO concessionaires said they would not (actually they may not) question the arbitration decisions, but they will now go back to the government for reimbursement of losses resulting from rate reduction.

Manila Water seeks through the Department of Finance compensation for losses arising from the decision upholding the position of MWSS that Manila Water is a public utility. The classification has adversely affected the concessionaire’s rate of return.

During the MWSS privatization in 1997, the government represented that MWSS would remain as the public utility and that under their agreement, Manila Water would be an agent and contractor of MWSS.

Under the agreement, Manila Water was assured a rate of return comparable to similar infrastructure concessions which is, if we are not mistaken, 12 percent.

Manila Water deplored that “the position of MWSS, as upheld by the appeals panel, diverges from the original intent of the agreement and the representations of government in 1997.”

Manila Water seeks reimbursement of expected losses estimated to be over P79 billion from 2015 to 2037. For its part, Maynilad Water wants P3.4 billion for losses already incurred.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 21, 2015)

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