Malilong: Let a private entity compete with MCWD

The Other Side

SINCE the Metropolitan Cebu Water District cannot adequately serve its customers, shouldn’t the City Government encourage the private sector to invest in the business of operating a water utility system in the MCWD’s concession area?

The MCWD is a government-owned and controlled corporation created pursuant to Presidential Decree 198 issued by President Marcos less than a year after he declared martial law in 1972. If its being government-run has actually caused the deterioration of the MCWD, we do not know.

In signing the decree, otherwise known as the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973, Marcos observed that existing water utilities were not meeting the needs of the communities they serve. Water quality was unsatisfactory, he said. Pressure was inadequate and reliability of service was poor.

Note that he wrote this nearly 46 years ago. And yet until now, the MCWD and, I am sure, a number of other government-owned water companies have not been able to meet Marcos’s and, more importantly, the public’s expectations. The service remains inadequate and unreliable.

The question is why should we allow ourselves to be condemned to a life with an inefficient water system. Can we not enjoy water that does not have the smell of government in it? We don’t even have to privatize the MCWD. Just allow other investors to tap water sources, lay their own pipes and give suffering consumers a choice of supplier.

MCWD cannot claim that only they are authorized to operate a waterworks system in Cebu. They tried that once, citing the Marcos presidential decree, but the Supreme Court rebuffed them. In MCWD versus Adala, the High Tribunal, speaking through Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, declared that the notion of an exclusive franchise upon public utilities “is clearly repugnant” to the Constitution.

The case stemmed from the decision of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) approving the application of Margarita Adala to operate a waterworks system in three sitios in Bulacao. The MCWD had opposed the application because it had no prior approval by the MCWD board as required under PD 198.

Besides, the MCWD said, Adala’s operations would interfere with their water supply which they have a right to protect and, furthermore, the water needs of the residents of the three sitios were already being well-served by them.

Unfortunately, the SC chose to ignore the factual issues that MCWD raised. It would have been very interesting to find out what or where the water supply of MCWD is and whether the district is actually directly drawing from it or awarded the same to favored contractors.

As to the claim that the needs of the residents were already well-served, I am sure the residents would have had a lot to say about it as we now have a lot to say about MCWD’s inability to serve us.

Competition will not kill the MCWD. In fact, it could result in the government-owned water district getting better.


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