SC issues 'status quo ante order' vs. sale of Angat hydro

May 25, 2010 8:22 pm 

MANILA, May 25 – The Supreme Court (SC) has issued a "status quo ante order" on a petition filed by a number of cause-oriented groups seeking to stop the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) from pursuing the sale of Angat Hydro-Electric Power Plant (HEPP) in Bulacan.

The order takes effect immediately until further orders from the SC.

The SC also required the respondents to file their respective comment within a "non-extendible" period of 10 days from receipt of the order.

The SC also ordered the parties, agents, representatives, or persons acting in their place or stead, to maintain the "status quo" prevailing before the filing of the said petition on May 19, 2010.

The petition for certiorari and prohibition was filed by the members of the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services Inc. (Ideals Inc.), Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Akbayan Citizen's Action Party and Alliance of Progressive Labor.

The petitioners claimed that PSALM acted with "grave abuse of discretion when it conducted the bidding of the Angat HEPP in secrecy and in disregard of the people's right to information, right to water and in violation of its mandate and the Constitution."

Named respondents were the PSALM, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Korea Water Resources Corp. (K-Water), First Gen Northern Energy Corp., San Miguel Corp. (SMC), SN Aboitiz Power-Pangasinan Inc., Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp., and DMCI Power Corp.

According to the petitioners, the respondents proceeded with the bidding "without having previously released to the public critical information pertinent to the sale of the public asset such as the terms and conditions of the disposition, the parties qualified to bid and the minimum price, among others, in violation of Presidential Decree 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) Law and jurisprudence."

They said that the respondents conducted "(A) in the absence of effective safeguards for water security, and (B) in a context characterized by lack/denial of access to information concerning water, undermining petitioners' right to water and in violation of Article II, Sections 2 and 11 of the 1987 Constitution in relation to Articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article III, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, PD 1067 and EPIRA and its implementing rules and regulations."

The petitioners said that the respondents also allowed foreign state-owned corporations to participate in the bidding process in violation of Article 12, Section 2 of the Constitution or the Filipino First provision.

A portion of this provision states that the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State.

The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens.

Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law.

Milo Tanchuling, FDC secretary general, said that "Angat Dam is the single-most important water source of Metro Manila as it provides 97 percent of the water needs of at least 12 million residents of the country's capital."

Tanchuling also said that Angat Dam also "irrigates some 31,000 hectares of farms across 20 towns and municipalities in Bulacan and Pampanga."

Under Republic Act No. 9136, otherwise known as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), PSALM is mandated to privatize all the assets of the National Power Corporation, including the Angat HEPP.

The K-Water, a utility wholly-owned and controlled by the Republic of South Korea, submitted the highest bid, amounting to US$ 440.8 million, among six qualified bidders on April 28, 2010.

PSALM, the agency responsible for the sale of Angat HEPP, has yet to announce the winning bidder.

The petitioners claimed that as the process of privatization moves on, violations of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people in its execution unfold, as revealed in the ongoing privatization of the Angat HEPP. (PNA)

RMA/PTR

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