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Primewater takes over QMWD

Sentinel Times news story writer and columnist John Bello interviews QMWD 
general manager Enrico Pasumbal in his office. 

by John A. Bello

LUCENA CITY – The water agency with thousands of concessionnaires from the 2 cities of Lucena and Tayabas and the municipality of Pagbilao has entered into a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with Primewater Infrastructure Corp.

Quezon Metropolitan Water District QMWD) General Manager Enrico Pasumbal disclosed that the JVA was signed on June 8 which mandates the Primewater to have management and operational control while the water agency retains the ‘strategic control’ with members of the board of directors (BOD) who act as the policymaking body still under QMWD.

“There was no transfer of ownership of properties and facilities in the JVA, di kami nabili, humanap lang kami ng katuwang at ang BOD ay nasa QMWD pa rin kaya this is for the best interest of the water concessionnaires of Lucena, Tayabas and Pagbilao who will benefit from this deal,” said Pasumbal in an exclusive interview in his office on Tuesday here.

Pasumbal said that the full takeover of Primewater will be in August and under the deal it will just ‘rent the properties’ of the QMWD.

“We need funds to improve our water facilities and service and QMWD has not received any subsidy from the government and water districts are not exempted from the new TRAIN law,” he said adding that the agreement with Primewater will now enable the fulfilment of modernization and improvement of facilities and service that has been the water agency’s desire for all the water concessionaires in all its service areas in the 2 cities of Lucena and Tayabas and the town of Pagbilao.

He said that QMWD has been hounded by the road-widening projects of the national government as their water pipes are affected and it costs a lot to transfer busted pipes.

“We cannot buy machineries because of the government road-widening projects and we have lost around P10 million already as our water pipes are hit by backhoes in the underpass project in the Diversion road in Bgy. Gulang-Gulang,” he said.

Pasumbal disclosed that under the deal Primewater will undertake a P5.5 billion capital infusion for water supply development within 25 years and P400 million for septage development and management before 2020.

Pasumbal said that the deal has gained the approval of the rank and file of QMWD which has 230 permanent employees, with 55 casual and 41 job orders. He said that under the deal 92 employees have been absorbed, 131 opted to retire with full benefits and incentives and 14 others, including the GM, will do regular monitoring of the new set-up.

Imee Tumacder, public information officer of QMWD, said that in an unincorporated joint venture, there is no transfer of assets and no change of ownership and the deal is designed to hasten the implementation of the water supply system development and septage management projects. She also said that the JVA of water agencies with private entities does not need a public hearing according to the NEDA guidelines in 2013.

Tumacder said that QMWD is still a government owned and controlled corporation with mandate and functions stipulated under Presidential Decree 198 with 5-member board of directors as a policymaking body.

In a privilege speech on Monday at the Sangguniang Panglunsod here, Councilor Oliver ‘Boyet’ Alejandrino, a former human rights lawyer, lambasted the deal between QMWD and Primewater and branded it as illegal and in violation of Presidential Decree 198 or the Provincial Water Utilization Act of 1973 which mandates the appointment of the BOD by the mayor or governor under its area of responsibililty.

“Wala na bang pakialam ang Lucena, Tayabas at Pagbilao sa anumang gawin ng QMWD? Dapat lamang na isangkot sa anumang usapin ng QMWD kagaya ng joint venture agreement na yan lalo na ang Lucena na karamihan sa water concessionaires ay narito,” Alejandrino said.