Gamboa: The ‘joint venture’ is a takeover
By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
Bacolod City Councilor Wilson Gamboa, Jr. continued to lambast the Bacolod City Water District (Baciwa) Board of Directors by outrightly calling the utility firm’s proposed joint venture with PrimeWater Infrastructure Corporation “a takeover and not a partnership investment.”
“PrimeWater will use Baciwa as its milking cow because they would not commit and infuse capital until the creation or formation of the ‘joint-venture company’ and, therefore, would utilize existing Baciwa assets, facilities, equipment, high-volume water consumer market network, strong financial liquidity to avail of loans, and other financial assistance,” the city official asserted.
Despite PrimeWater being in operation for over 30 years and providing services including water system development, bulk water supply, water supply improvement and rehabilitation, along with a sewage waste management program, Gamboa cited negative findings by the Commission on Audit (COA).
He noted, while the firm has already taken over more than 60 water utility firms across the country in the span of four years, COA found the firm engaged in poor project implementation, non-compliance with National Economic and Development Authority guidelines, non-compliance with contract provisions, financial ineligibility, franchise tax violations, audit suspension and disallowances, unsettled performance bond, among other irregularities.
Gamboa went on to point out, PrimeWater is under the Villar Group of Companies, which is chaired by former Senator Manny Villar.
“It is nothing but an economic predator in cahoots with the modern Baciwa directors—collaborators and carpetbaggers,” the city councilor stated.
Despite Baciwa officials denying the move is privatization, Gamboa said employees are being offered a hefty 450 percent early retirement option and/or separation pay. He added, no more than 20 Baciwa employees are expected to be retained as part of the agreement.
“Only the Baciwa directors will be retained,” he added.
Baciwa Board of Directors chair, Atty. Lorendo Dilag, earlier declared the board’s opposition to privatization and affirmed the joint venture with PrimeWater is not privatization
Last week, Baciwa revealed the proposed joint venture had reportedly advanced past the negotiation stage with Dilag confirming they are currently preparing their terms of reference and competitive bidding is scheduled to begin in a month./DGB, WDJ