april theses / blog posts politics July 18, 2019

Tubig: Serbisyo, Hindi Negosyo

Water: A service, not a business

"Water is life, a right. So it's a government's obligation to provide it."

Today I attended a rally in the Philippines, against the impending privatization of this city's water system.

The union of employees at the Water District (the city's public water service) led the political demonstration, including a big mobilization to their office along with allies in the urban poor, workers, and other sectors.

The reason they're against the privatization (despite being offered big money by the private company to Shut Up And Work) is that they're consumers of water in this city too.

As consumers, they would immediately begin paying an extra 12% tax on water services. But that's just the beginning of extra costs, because this exact private water service company has an amazing track record of screwing up water systems and losing money in the SIXTY cities whose water they control. In one city in one year, P50 million in losses.

The company is called Prime Water.

Here's the fun part.

Prime Water is owned by Manny Villar, who is a former Senator in the Philippines... And a billionaire. He is the richest man in the Philippines at the moment. His empire started with building cheap houses before expanding to other construction sectors.

He was elected after becoming a billionaire of course, because you have to be rich to play politics in this country. His wife, Cynthia, is currently a Senator, after sitting on Congress for three terms.

Their son, though... This is where it gets good. Their son, Mark Villar, started his political career in Congress, succeeding his mother's seat. This is called a political dynasty in progressive circles here. It has a name because it's common.

Mark Villar left this position in 2016 and was replaced BY HIS WIFE, Emmeline Aglipay Villar. He left because he was taking a new position on Duterte's hand-picked cabinet: Secretary of Public Works and Highways.


Yeah. The guy whose daddy is a construction billionaire is in charge of the Department of Public Works, which for example oversees all the water districts in the country.

So when Filipino progressives say that there is a system of bureaucrat capitalism (colluding with US imperialism, hand-in-hand with feudal landlords), THIS is the system they're talking about. Government being operated solely to the business interests of the ruling, sellout classes.

This is one of the roots of poverty in the Philippines.

Andy Tran

Written by Andy Tran. All thoughts posted here are mine, and are not indicative of positions held by any organization or group I affiliate with.