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Consumers warned vs ‘triple whammy’

Despite assurances from the government that prices will stabilize soon, consumers face a triple whammy of higher water rates, more expensive train fares and yet another spike in fuel prices.

Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus on Monday pushed for a congressional probe into how the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System allows its two concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water, to raise water rates quarterly based on foreign exchange fluctuations.

“At a time when mothers and ordinary Filipinos are reeling from the torrent of price hikes, the government still chose to approve a water rate hike to ensure payment of old and onerous foreign currency-denominated loans by the MWSS,” De Jesus said. 

De Jesus questioned the foreign currency differential adjustment scheme in the MWSS concession agreements, which enables Maynilad and Manila Water to adjust water rates quarterly based on how the peso fares against the US dollar.

Under the latest forex-induced water rate hike, Manila Water customers who consume 10 cubic meters or less will pay an additional P5.21 per month while Maynilad customers will pay an additional 23 centavos for the consumption of the same volume of water.  

“The peso has plunged to a record-low in more than a decade by breaching the P53:$1 mark and shows no sign of recovery. With the FCDA scheme in place, a depreciating peso will only mean bigger water rate hikes in the coming months,” De Jesus said. “Consumers will be charged several times over for the same erratic water service. This is one of the many downsides of water privatization.”

Gabriela earlier filed House Resolution 1363 seeking a congressional inquiry into the MWSS concession agreements, which the group said,  has led to its privatization, particularly on the provisions that warrant regular rate hikes including the FCDA and the currency exchange rate adjustment. 

HR 1363 provides that water rates “should be reasonably based on the actual water supply and processing under government regulation and [should] be independent of foreign exchange rates and loan terms, with the end view of making water service accessible and affordable to all.” 

The resolution also calls for the suspension of the FCDA pending the investigation of the appropriate House committee. 

Meanwhile, the Light Rail Manila Corp. on Monday justified the need to raise fares of the Light Rail Transit Line 1, given the continuous rise in the company’s operating expenses.

LRMC president and CEO Juan Alfonso on Monday stressed the need to adjust fares as operating expenses have increased while fares have remained unchanged since the company took over in 2015.

“With interest and everything, the LRMC is hardly earning anything,” he said in Filipino on the program Dobol B sa News TV. 

The LRMC sought an increase that would raise fares by P7 on end-to-end trips and P5 on average, but Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public services, has urged the government to hold off on the fare hike.

Oil companies, meanwhile, raised fuel prices again, by P0.45 per liter for diesel and kerosene and P0.20 per liter for gasoline.

PTT Philippines, Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Seaoil Philippines, Eastern Petroleum Philippines and Total Philippines issued separate advisories of the oil price hike while other oil players are expected to follow suit.

“Please be advised that Eastern Petroleum will hike the price of diesel by P0.45 per liter and unleaded and premium gasoline by P0.20 per liter at 6 am Tuesday,” the company said.

On June 12, the oil firms rolled back pump prices by P0.55 per liter for gasoline and P0.60 per liter both for diesel and kerosene due to the softening of world oil prices.

Before Tuesday’s increase, year-to-date total adjustments stand at a net increase of P5.60 per liter in gasoline and P6.15 per liter in diesel.

Topics: Gabriela Party-list , Rep. Emmi de Jesus , Maynilad , Manila Water , Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System , PTT Philippines , Phoenix Petroleum Philippines , Seaoil Philippines
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