Court junks bid to nullify Baciwa-PrimeWater deal

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The Regional Trial Court Branch 45 dismissed the petition seeking to nullify the 25-year joint venture agreement between Bacolod City Water District and PrimeWater Infrastructure Inc., paving the way for the private firm to take over the operations of BACIWA on Friday (Nov. 13).

“The instant petition for the declaratory relief and declaration of the nullity of the JVA is hereby dismissed for failure to state a cause of action,” Presiding Judge Phoebe Gargantiel-Balbin said in a seven-page order dated Nov. 11.

PrimeWater vice president Romeo Sabater said that after the Baciwa Board of Directors received a copy of the court order on Friday afternoon,  the body passed a resolution turning over the operations and management to them.

“We formally accepted the takeover of Baciwa. With that, officially, we will be here in the next 25 years,” Sabater said in a press conference held at O Hotel on Friday night.

The contract, which was signed last July 17, was scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1, but on Oct. 27, granted the temporary restraining order sought by Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr. and his co-petitioners from consumers group Amlig Tubig.

A hearing was held on Nov. 9, and two days after, the court issued an

order dismissing the petition.

According to the order, “(t)he petitioners as consumers did not specifically state what rights of theirs would be affected or prejudiced by the JVA. They simply alleged in general terms that their contractual rights as consumers would be affected.”

The court also denied the ancillary prayer for issuance of writ of preliminary injunction and lifted the TRO issued on Oct. 27.

“We were vindicated when the TRO was lifted and the motion for writ of preliminary injunction was denied,” Sabater said.

In partnership with Baciwa, PrimeWater will “address the water crisis the city is facing right now”, he added.

Sabater said figures showed that only 50 percent of residential or domestic consumers in Bacolod have access to Baciwa’s water system.

“The other half is getting water elsewhere. This is very inconvenient and very traumatic to consumers of Bacolod. We saw that need and that need should be addressed now,” he said.

He also said that PrimeWater will not impose a rate increase in the next 12 months or until Nov. 12, 2021.

Baciwa’s contract with PrimeWater is expected to bring in more than

PHP6 billion in investments from the Manila-based utility firm in the next 25 years.

Lawyer Lorendo Dilag, chairman

of Baciwa Board of Directors,  reiterated that the partnership is “necessary, practical and beneficial” for Bacolod. – NLG