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Water consumers as ‘contractual’ victims

/ 12:59 AM July 20, 2013

Maynilad and Manila Water came up with full-page ads justifying the various impositions on their water bills to consumers. Their explanations do not hold water. Rather than merely stating that “the 1997 Metro Manila Concession Agreement… provides for how the pricing for these services are to be determined (and) contains a mechanism for establishing an appropriate market-based rate of return on the concessionaires’ investments,” they could have cited or summarized the provisions of the contracts they rely on and explained how these justified such additional charges as those expenditures covering donations, flowers and other nonoperational expenses.

They insist on the inviolability of their contract with the government. But it is basic that while parties may enter into whatever stipulations they want and that a contract is the law between them, such contracts, under the Civil Code, must not be contrary to law, good customs and public policy. Also, there are the legal principles that estoppel does not run against the government and that the government is not bound by the ultra vires or illegal or immoral acts of its officers.

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It should be within the power of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, as a regulator, to unilaterally interpret the provisions of the Concession Agreement in a manner that would best serve the public, and if the concessionaires disagree they can always go to court, not the other way around.

The concessionaires crow that because of their services water delivery has vastly improved. But this would just be like saying that after saving a person from the rampaging waters of Typhoon “Ondoy,” they could bill and bleed him to death for their efforts and expenses in saving him.

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More than “Care in Every Drop,” their slogan should be “Care In Every Cent.”

—ROLANDO P. QUIMBO,
Cubao, Quezon City

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TAGS: Consumer issues, letters to the editor, Manila Water, Maynilad, opinion
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