Duterte to review water concession contracts

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President Rodrigo R. Duterte said he would review the concession contracts proposed by the government to the Philippine capital’s water providers, whose owners he previously targeted over alleged onerous provisions in the agreements.

In a meeting with his officials shown on state media on Friday, he said he was fine with the contracts of Manila Water Co., Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. as long as they “pay back” their due to the consumers.

“I will review the contracts that are proposed by the government panel to the Ayala and the Pangilinan consortium na… Ako, okay na ako basta mabawi lang ng pera ang tao even in installment sa ano ninyo but you have to make some amends,” he said.

(I’m okay as long as the people get their money.)

“So okay na lang ako but iyong nawala sa tao, kung ano ang nawala sa kanila, that has to be paid back, whether in installments over a period of years, but you have to return the money to the people,” he added.

(I’m okay with it but they have to pay back what is due to the consumers.)

Publicly listed Manila Water is a unit of Ayala Corp., the diversified conglomerate led by brothers Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Fernando Zobel de Ayala. Maynilad is a subsidiary of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., the listed holding firm chaired by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

Mr. Duterte said that if the government’s proposed contracts are not to the liking of the businessmen, he would proceed with the filing of a case against them.

The government last year found alleged onerous provisions in contracts of the two concessionaires with regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, which include the non-interference of the government in their rate-setting.

The government also described as illegal the extension of the separate contracts to 2037 ahead of their lapse in 2022.

Mr. Duterte also said that the concessionaires committed economic sabotage after arbitration courts ruled that the government owes them indemnity over their losses. Both companies had said that they would not pursue their arbitral awards.

The President also said that the government would offer them new contracts and would push for criminal charges should they reject the new contracts.

Mr. Duterte last month apologized to the water concessionaires after recognizing the assistance given by the private sector to the government and various communities in the fight against the coronavirus disease. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas