Ac­cess to wa­ter as a hu­man right

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

LAST week, Sunstar Ba­colod re­ported that the So­cial Ac­tion Cen­ter of the Dio­cese of Ba­colod and other con­sumer groups ap­pealed to the city of­fi­cials to con­duct a pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posed joint ven­ture or pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship be­tween the Ba­colod City Wa­ter District (Baciwa) and Prime Wa­ter.

SAC head Fr. Chris Gon­za­les said that once the wa­ter district will be pri­va­tized, it will be a dis­ad­van­tage to the con­sumers.

I beg to dis­agree on his as­ser­tion that Baciwa “will be a dis­ad­van­tage to the con­sumers.”

As a con­sumer, Baciwa as a pub­lic util­ity has put Ali­jis and other barangays at a dis­ad­van­tage. At one point, it man­aged to de­liver wa­ter for only two hours. And that’s in the wee hours when peo­ple are en­joy­ing their night rest.

“We want a clear ex­pla­na­tion from the board of di­rec­tors on what’s hap­pen­ing now to our ba­sic need. The church is al­ways here and rec­og­nizes that wa­ter is our ba­sic need and its part of our so­cial teach­ing that we should not pri­va­tize the ba­sic needs of the peo­ple like trans­porta­tion, wa­ter, medicine, ed­u­ca­tion, power among oth­ers,” stressed Gon­za­les.

I agree that ac­cess to clean, potable wa­ter 24/7 days is a fun­da­men­tal hu­man right. If framed in that con­text, Baciwa as a pub­lic en­tity has been vi­o­lat­ing that con­ces­sion­aires’ right.

Most of the time, our faucets get wa­ter from 1 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. And then on many oc­ca­sions, we get brack­ish wa­ter at that.

Where is the Wa­ter Watch when Baciwa de­prived us of clean fresh wa­ter? Have these con­sumer groups taken the cud­gels for us?

Worse, for all this wa­ter scarcity, we were billed thou­sands of pe­sos. For two months, from P500 to P12,000, my monthly wa­ter bill sky­rock­eted to P3,000!

He said the con­sumers have the right to full dis­clo­sure on any move or plan that Baciwa un­der­takes, like the projects on bulk wa­ter which aims to ef­fi­ciently de­liver wa­ter to its con­sumers.

Again, I have yet to see that ef­fi­ciency, not to men­tion ef­fec­tive­ness. Ac­cord­ing to the late and renowned man­age­ment con­sul­tant Peter Drucker, ef­fi­ciency is do­ing things right. When pay­ing con­ces­sion­aires get wa­ter only due to the wee hours, that’s in­ef­fi­ciency.

And Baciwa’s rea­sons—or ex­cuses? Ceneco brownout. No money. It’s an “engi­neer­ing” so­lu­tion? Buy pails. Or build a wa­ter tank.

The world of hu­man rights ob­li­gates the State to re­spect, pro­tect, and ful­fill the rights of duty-hold­ers. The State obli­ga­tion to ful­fil means that States must take pos­i­tive ac­tion to fa­cil­i­tate the en­joy­ment of ba­sic hu­man rights.

But it can be done through pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships. Or even pri­va­ti­za­tion. There is noth­ing that pre­vents duty-bear­ers, that is, Baciwa to go for PPP.* (bq­[email protected]­

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