Activists gathered at the foot of Chino Roces bridge three days after the bloody dispersal of a farmer’s protests in Cotabato to demand justice for the victims and hold the government accountable for its failed El Niño response.
“It is understandable that the people were starving and pushed to the edge. Government’s failure to act pro-actively and decisively address the drought and hunger brought by El Niño forced them to take to the streets to demand urgently needed aid, braving the blazing summer sun and later, the high caliber guns of the police,” Prof. Ed Tadem, FDC President said.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) called on the incoming Duterte administration to undertake a review of all government issued sovereign guarantees following recent reports that the Department of Finance (DoF) was preparing to pay Maynilad and Manila Water P82.4 billion in compensation for supposed losses they incurred due to the postponement of the increase in their basic charges.
“One of the first things the Duterte government should do once it assumes office is to look into all sovereign guarantees issued in the past in order to determine how much risk the public sector has taken on and whether these guarantees were really necessary,” FDC Secretary General Sammy Gamboa said. “In issuing sovereign guarantees government could potentially set itself up for large, unexpected future expenses for which it has made not made enough provisions. There is also the fundamental question of whether it is right for government to take on virtually all the risks in multi-billion peso projects while the private investor reaps all the profits.”
As the world marks World Water Day, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) criticized the Aquino government’s failure to adequately respond to the El Niño crisis which the group claims has significantly compromised water and food security in many parts of the country.
“This year while the world celebrates World Water Day, many parts of the country, particularly in Mindanao, are suffering from drought and dry spells. Based on forecasts from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the 34 provinces likely to experience drought this month will climb to 68 provinces by the end of April. The Department of Agriculture (DA) estimates that damage to agriculture from March 2015 is at P3.6 billion. We are already one year into an urgent crisis which should have elicited a more vigorous and comprehensive response from government, but what we have been seeing is the complete opposite” Gamboa said.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) again raised the alarm over the continuing crisis spawned by El Nino expressing concern that once the furor over the bloody Kidapawan dispersal subsides, the desperate plight of thousands in El Nino affected areas will be in danger of being forgotten once again.
“Certainly the Kidapawan dispersal brought the issue to national consciousness. It focused attention on the worsening situation in many areas in Mindanao including South Cotabato and put much-needed pressure on the government’s sluggish El Nino effort. But with media and public attention increasingly being pulled towards the elections, there is a risk of the crisis getting drowned out,” Sammy Gamboa, FDC Secretary-General said.
Water consumers and anti-water privatization advocates led by the Freedom from Debt Coalition warned Pres. Aquino and Sec. Cesar Purisima of the Department of Finance (DoF) not to process the P82.44 billion compensation claim that water companies are demanding from the government on the basis of sovereign guarantees issued in connection with the privatization.
“The demand for almost P83 billion to cover the water companies projected losses is outrageous and unjust and should be rejected. Why should we pay money out of the national coffers to ensure the profits of wealthy corporations when we don’t even have enough for basic social services?” Samuel Gamboa, FDC Secretary General asked.
Consumers and civil society groups led by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) called on the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to stand up to the bully tactics being employed by Maynilad and Manila Water in the on-going row regarding water rates.
“The recent announcement by Manila Water that it filed a notice of claim with the Department of Finance for the absurd amount of P79 billion is clearly aimed at intimidating the government and MWSS. This is little more than a blatant ploy to stop MWSS from disallowing the water companies’ abusive practice of passing on their income taxes to consumers,” Sammy Gamboa, FDC Secretary-General said.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and water consumer group Pagkakaisa ng mga Tagapagtangkilik ng Tubig sa Kamaynilaan (PATTAK) today blasted the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems (MWSS) regulators for their failure to take advantage of the 30-day period of clarification to block the immediate implementation of Maynilad’s planned water rate hike.
“After announcing that it would make use of the clarificatory period provided for under the arbitration process, the MWSS has apparently decided to drop all pretense that it is looking out for the welfare of water consumers. By simply allowing the deadline to lapse, the MWSS has paved the way for the implementation of the 9.8% increase granted to Maynilad by the International Chamber of Commerce-led arbitration panel,” Sammy Gamboa FDC Secretary-General said.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition and the water consumers group Pagkakaisa ng mga Tagapagtangkilik ng Tubig sa Kamaynilaan (PATTAK), today slammed the recently announced ruling of an arbitration panel which grants Maynilad the right to hike its water rates for Metro Manila’s West Zone saying it sends the message that corporations can do whatever they please in the country.
When Metro Manila’s water services were privatized in 1997, the service area was divided into two geographically separate zones–the West zone which includes old Manila and the province of Cavite which was awarded to Maynilad and the East zone which includes much of the Makati business district and expanding suburbs, which was awarded to Manila Water.