PRESIDENT Fidel Ramos in effect surrendered the Republic’s sovereign powers to foreigners in the water concession agreements that his government entered into in 1997 with two oligarchs that had been close to all Yellow administrations: the Ayalas and the Lopezes.
The agreements that turned over the running of the water and sewerage system in metropolitan Manila and several adjacent provinces had provisions that ultimately gave foreigners the ultimate authority to determine how much they could charge their 12 million customers, their captive market, as Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services are monopolies in the areas they serve.
While the government agency Metropolitan Manila Waterworks and Sewerage Water (MWSS) sets the basic tariff rates every five years in the so-called rate-rebasing procedures, the concession agreements gave the two companies the right to appeal the government’s decision in two ways.
One was for them to appeal to a so-called appeals panel, as provided for in the concession agreements’ Article 12. This panel has three members, with the concessionaire and the MWSS each appointing one member. The third member though, the panel’s chairman, is appointed by the president of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In all the appeals so far, the two concessionaires appointed foreigners, who together with another foreigner appointed by the ICC president, outvoted the sole Filipino designated by the MWSS.
One would be too naïve to think that conglomerates like the Ayala Corp. and the Hong Kong First Pacific Group (which bought out the Lopezes in Maynilad in 2007) do not have strong connections with the ICC. And why would a social club of global capitalists like the International Chamber of Commerce have a say in determining how much water Filipinos should pay for?