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Philippine President Duterte slams water concessionaires

Duterte said the concession contracts of Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services Inc. are disadvantageous to the public because they prohibit the government from adjusting water rates. Photo: STAR. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

MANILA, Dec 4, 2019, PhilStar. A furious President Duterte yesterday threatened to file charges of economic sabotage against the private water concessionaires that he accused of “screwing” Filipinos, saying the concession deals they signed with the government are “milking” Filipinos by the billions, The Philippine Star reported.

Duterte said the concession contracts of Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services Inc. are disadvantageous to the public because they prohibit the government from adjusting water rates.

He said the deals treated water not as a natural resource but as a commodity.

“I will file economic sabotage and I will arrest them, all of them… I will let them experience how it’s like to go to jail. If they drag me, I will join them in prison. There’s no problem. I have nothing to lose,” the President said in a speech during the signing of two laws in Malacañang.

“I am sorry, I’m ready to go but I won’t go out without a bang. I will expose the rich who made money at the expense of the nation,” he added.

Duterte also vowed to run after officials who backed the contracts, which he described as “tagilid (lopsided).”

“Why did the senators agree with that (contract)? I’ll expose them. I insist that they be tried for economic sabotage… Now is the time we talk seriously abouot the buying of cases,” the President said.
“I will make their life hereon very, very miserable.”

Duterte said he has ordered Solicitor General Jose Calida and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to draft a new contract that is “really favorable” to the public and the government.

“Give it to them. This is the amended contract. Accept it or nothing to it,” the President said.

Duterte made the remarks days after a Singapore-based court ordered the Philippine government to pay P7.39 billion in compensation to Ayala-led Manila Water for the losses the company incurred from the rejected water rate increases since 2015.

Manila Water has said it has “a right to indemnification for actual losses suffered by it on account of the Republic’s breach of its obligation.”

Duterte claimed Manila Water bagged the legal victory because the company is “part of the club” but did not elaborate.

He said the Philippines lost the case because it interfered in the company’s application for rate hike.
“We cannot raise or lower the rates. They are the only ones who can do it. Our water, we cannot control the price to which we collect – to deliver the water to the people,” he said.

Duterte also accused water concessionaires of reneging on their obligation to provide water treatments.
“With regard to water treatment, they’ve been colleciting for years to treat water before it flows to Manila Bay…but there is no treatment taking place, you animals. If you don’t do it, believe, me…I will show Filipinos how to slap millionaires,” he said.

Duterte also lambasted opposition senator Franklin Drilon, who earlier told him to be cautious in reviewing government deals. Drilon, a former justice secretary, has said no country or entity would sign deals with the Philippines if the sanctity of contracts is not respected.

“Senator Drilon, are you one of those who crafted the contract? I’m asking you,” he said.

“I am not scaring you. But if I fall, I would bring you with me.”

Earlier this year, Duterte threatened to terminate the contracts of Manila Water and Maynilad because of water service interruptions that hounded parts of Metro Manila and Rizal province. He has also ordered his legal team to review all state contracts to determine which of them are disadvantageous to the government.

Duterte to ABS-CBN: You’re out

Duterte also slammed the Lopezes, the owners of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, and vowed to block the renewal of their network’s franchise.

“ABS-CBN has been a protector of your vested interest,” he said.

“Your franchise will expire next year. If you are expecting it to be renewed, I’m sorry. You’re out.”
Duterte has accused ABS-CBN of swindling for allegedly not returning his money even if his campaign advertisements did not air. He has also chided the network for allegedly peddling “garbage” stories designed to discredit him.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Calida had reported to the President the latest arbitral ruling issued by the Singapore-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which ruled in favor of Manila Water.

“Solicitor General Jose Calida reported on the updates on the arbitral ruling regarding the government’s indemnification to Manila Water,” Panelo said.

Manila Water has a “right to indemnification for actual losses suffered by it on the account of the Philippine government’s breach of its obligation,” which reflected in the firm’s disclosure in the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Manila Water supposedly suffered actual losses from June 2015 to November 2019.

Meanwhile, Panelo also announced that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra updated the Cabinet on the justice department’s review of the Maynilad and Manila Water concession agreements.

Duterte earlier ordered a review of the agreements with water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad after they failed to address the water supply crisis in Metro Manila caused by the decline in the water level of the firms’ main source Angat Dam in Bulacan. The previous dry spell also worsened the problem.

Guevarra yesterday said it is up to President Duterte to decide and announce the course of action that would be taken by the government on the PCA decision.

He said that during the Cabinet meeting last Monday evening that lasted until early Tuesday, there were certain recommendations made to the President that were adopted by the Cabinet regarding the PCA ruling.

“There was an impassioned discussion last night. President Duterte was visibly upset, if not angered, and we’re expecting him to make a public statement today on the government’s intended course of action. (The) President will make his public statement on this matter very soon,” Guevarra added.

Guevarra said that last summer, during the water shortage problem, they were instructed by the President to review the 1997 water concession agreements signed by the Manila Water Sewerage System (MWSS) with Manila Water and MayniladWater Services Inc.

He said that during the course of their review, they “found a dozen provisions that were deemed onerous or disadvantageous to the government and the consuming public. Most notable were the prohibition against government interference in rate-setting and the provision on indemnity for possible losses in the event of such government interference.”

He added that the “DOJ also found the extension of these contracts to 2037 irregular, considering that the extension was granted 12 to 13 years before the original expiration of the 25-year concession agreements in 2022.”

With Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan

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