LWUA chief faces graft raps

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By CHRIS PANGANIBAN, Contributing editor
November 13, 2019

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SAN Francisco, Agusan del Sur--Top officials of local water utilities here and in Butuan City have filed a graft complaint against Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) Administrator Jeci A. Lapus.

The complaint was filed by San Francisco Water District general manager Elmer T. Luzon and Butuan City Water District general manager Engr.  Anselmo L. Sang Tian against Lapus for allegedly engaging in “moro moro” transactions with private partners that were disadvantageous to the welfare of local water districts in the entire country.

In their complaint sent to Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires, Luzon and Sang Tian claimed Lapus engaged in irregular transactions between private companies and at least 100 water districts in the country  which were flawed from the very start because of the shortcuts in the processes and without public hearing as prescribed by Executive Order No. 68, series of 1999 signed by former President Joseph Estrada.

The two complainants also cited Lapus issued a travel ban to LWUA designated representatives to water districts joint venture selection committee meetings leaving water districts vulnerable to questionable transactions with the private partners.

Inquirer has sent a query to get a reaction from Lapus at the Contact Us online form of LWUA website but has yet to get a response at press time.

Luzon said Public-Private Partnership (PPP) or Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between water districts and private water suppliers rapidly proliferating in the country are grossly disadvantageous and a heavy burden to the consuming public because the operation, maintenance, billing and collection are taken over by the private partner putting the government into lesser control.

He noted the Primewater Infrastructure Corp. owned by former Senate President Manny Villar has dominated the PPP scheme in the country and had already engaged three large category B and C water districts in Mindanao including Metro Ozamiz Water District in Ozamiz City, Panabo Water District in Panabo City and recently the Surigao Metropolitan Water District in Surigao City.

This despite the assurance of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar in 2016 that their family-owned companies will not bid for any PPP projects to prevent conflict of interests.

Of the more than 500 water districts in the country, 76 of these utilities were engaged under the concession-type partnership with a total of  1.4  million service connections equivalent to some 6.7 million consumers.Local water districts are Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations.

“Clearly, the concession-type PPP is highly irregular,if not, unlawful because the local water districts’ core functions were outsourced to private partners,” Luzon said.

The EO 68 has mandated LWUA to conduct preliminary and final reviews of Build-Operate-Transfer and similar proposals on water supply projects of local water districts.


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