Poor public utilities service; Economy can't wait; PPP an alternative

Colmenares to Senate: Don't pass private-public partnership bill
By: Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon.com
February 2, 2016 12:51 PM

The Supreme Court could be the last resort to thwart the implementation of the Public-Partnership (PPP) bill if it becomes a law, a partylist lawmaker said.

“I hope the Senate will not allow this horrible law to pass otherwise the people will be constrained to go to the Supreme Court to stop the PPP bill,” Bayan Muna partylist Representative Neri Colmenares said.

The measure, which institutionalizes and strengthens the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme, was approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives Monday.

It is still in the period of interpellation at the Senate, but approval on second and third reading could come within the two remaining days of session because it was certified as an urgent measure by Malacanang.

Colmenares was one of the lawmakers who voted against the bill, saying it will be inimical to public interest and increase the cost of public service.

“The PPP law will institutionalize sovereign guarantee through the viability gap fund and billions of public funds will be given to private companies to ensure their super profits,” he said.

“This will privatize government services and will result in expensive rates in toll ways, MRT and LRT fares, even hospitals which are subject to the government’s private-partnership program. It will also exempt private corporations from taxes including local taxes and will take away much needed funds from the people’s needs,” he added.

The partylist lawmaker also warned that the measure would “castrate” the local government units and regulatory bodies because they are mandated to approve all PPP projects, grant all administrative franchise, permits, and licenses, taking away the checks and balance required in big projects of private companies.

“The bill centralizes authority in Malacanang through the automatic grant of permits licenses and franchises deemed important by the President. It even grants tax exemptions and deprive both the national government and LGUs of taxes, fees and charges,” Colmenares said.

“This bill will deprive the people of accessible public service and take away billions in public funds from our people’s needs,” he added.

The proposed law institutionalizes the PPP Center, which now oversees the government infrastructure program, along with the procedure for awarding PPP contracts.

The PPP Center was formed through Executive Order 8 in 2010 and beefed up by EO 136 in 2013.

Colmenares has very valid points. But, if only our Philippine government could deliver better public utilities services to the people, then perhaps PPP should just be an obsolete option. Therefore until then, PPP could serve as a short-term solution to this decades-old problem of poor public utilities service. Our country cannot afford to continue wasting more precious time waiting and "praying" for a really competent administration with firm political will to do whatever are necessary to really improve our various public service utilities.

A country's economic growth is very much dependent on the efficiency of its key public service utilities, and our country's economic momentum cannot be held hostage to the level of [in]competence of whoever/whatever administration is in power.

The public can and will tolerate higher cost of public utilities services as long as they are efficient and reasonably and fairly priced.