Aguilar: Gamboa vs Baciwa

Against the current

THERE are three kinds of legislative body in a typical local government. The first one is an all “yes: council wherein whatever the local chief executive asks they will automatically approve it without thinking. Those usually happen when they all belong to the same political party. The council technically becomes a rubber stamp. Such set up can make all transactions very fast but it can also breed possible corruption through connivance. There is hardly any check and balance happening on such set up.

The second one is an all “no” council where whatever the mayor or the governor asks the whole council or majority of them would block it. This happens when the local chief does not have the majority in the council. Such set up can create a gridlock. You see, the legislative council holds the power of the purse. Not a single peso can be released without the approval of the council and so if they would say no to all things then they can actually freeze the whole operation of the LGU. It has happened in some of the LGUs I handled and it can still happen.

The third kind is the critical “yes or no” council where the legislative body really looks into the merits of the issues and independently assesses whether they are good for the LGU or not. This is the ideal council we wanted. This way, there is check and balance and it purges the bureaucracy from vested interests.

If we look at the political landscape in Bacolod City after the result of the elections, I would say it is a good thing that there is one opposition councilor who got into the final list. That way, someone can play as a watchdog in all transactions while at the same time things can be fast-tracked knowing majority is with the administration. It is good for both parties and for the people as well as it would paint a picture that everything in the city council has been deliberated well.

City Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr. now becomes an overseer; a very crucial role.

But his move to ask the board of directors of Baciwa to step down and urge the agency to withdraw any joint venture negotiations because for him any public-private partnership is disadvantageous raises a red flag on him being an all “no” councilor. Not healthy at all in all angles.

You see, joint ventures are the way to go now. Partnerships and collaborations propel progress. I am not saying this is the case of Baciwa but for instance if over the years our government has been subsidizing hefty expenses from maintaining a service like water just so it would remain affordable and it could not yet afford to invest more from their budget to improve its services then a partnership venture would be the most practical thing to do.

Public-private partnership is a strategic solution to some problems. While such idea might sound too risky, our experience with the privatization of oil for instance during the Ramos administration would paint that such move is relatively safe. With such venture the huge investment to make the operation more efficient is now shared to the private company. It will be a win-win situation both for the private firm and the government. The government will no longer have to subsidize the expenses of the operation and will not have to allocate huge budget for investment while it improves its earning capacity.

All we have to do is create safety nets to ensure that prices will always be regulated just like how we did it with oil. We should also check all the provisions in the joint venture and remove any onerous provision detrimental to public interest, those aspects that put us to a disadvantage but not necessarily scrap the whole thing.

I think we could use a better water service here and a joint venture can make that happen. I have been here for a month now and I know just how bad water service is as of the moment.

As with Councilor Gamboa, instead of blocking the whole move, he can invite Baciwa in their council meeting in aid of legislation and discuss the salient points of the proposed joint venture such as pricing of water and profit sharing scheme. Now that is being critical.


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