Philippines

Duterte to water firms: How do we compromise?

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Duterte to water firms: How do we compromise?
By Azer Parrocha

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — “How do we compromise?”

This was the question posed by President Rodrigo Duterte to the owners of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. over the alleged onerous water concession agreements it entered into with government in 1997.

“They say na, “‘aregluhin natin (Let’s reach a compromise on this).’ How? How will I compromise? That’s plunder. That is the classic economic plunder,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang on Monday.

“How can now I tell the people as President: Adre, p, aregluhin na lang natin ‘to (Let’s reach a compromise). Tell me. Tell me those f***… Tell me kung papaano ko sabihin sa tao (Tell me how I’m going to tell the people),” he added.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore has ordered the government to pay Maynilad, co-owned by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, about PHP3.6 billion in damages for the company’s losses over the refusal to implement tariff adjustment for 2013 to 2017.

It also asked the government to pay PHP7.4 billion to the Ayala-owned Manila Water as compensation for losses and damages from delayed water rate increases since 2015.

Duterte earlier said he refused to pay the water concessionaires and threatened to jail them for making the government pay billions of pesos for damages.

‘Mirror’

Meanwhile, Duterte also likened the water concession agreements to acts prohibited under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act No. 3019.

“Yung kontrata (The contract) itself is a mirror of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law. Lahat ng anti-graft…nandiyan sa kontrata. I-ganun mo lang ‘yan, halos pareho na (Everything in the anti-graft law is found in that contract. Put them side by side, they’re almost alike,” Duterte said.

He also criticized two previous administrations for failing to look into the alleged onerous water concession agreements.

“I cannot imagine two administrations allowing our sovereignty to be bargained away,” Duterte said.

However, Duterte did not identify which administrations he was referring to.

The water concession agreement was signed during the term of President Fidel Ramos in 1997.

Presidents who came after Ramos were Joseph Estrada (1998-2001), Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2010), and Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III (2010-2016).

Duterte also said he also wanted to confront the government lawyers who drafted the water concession deals.

“Gusto ko hanapin yung abogado ng gobyerno na gumawa nito (I want to find the lawyers of government who made the contracts),” he added.

Upon Duterte’s orders, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said an inter-agency team will be formed before the end of the year to craft a revised version of the water concession agreement.

The team will be composed of lawyers from the DOJ, Department of Finance (DOF), Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), and Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).

Guevarra also said the OSG is looking into the possibility of appealing the ruling of the Singapore arbitration favoring Manila Water.

“Ang mas mahalaga kasi (What is more important) is not how to deal with their decision but what is more important is how we deal with the concession agreement itself,” Guevarra said. (PNA)

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