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Manila Water contract revision to continue despite Razon’s entry, says Justice secretary

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JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said Philippine billionaire Enrique K. Razon, Jr.’s buying of shares in the Ayala Corp. unit Manila Water Co., Inc. will have no effect in the revision of the water concessionaire’s allegedly onerous contract.

“No effect whatsoever,” he told reporters in a mobile-phone message.

“The CA (concession agreement) will be revised for the benefit of the consuming public, regardless of the ownership of the water company,” he added.

Manila Water in a stock exchange filing on Monday announced that it had agreed to sell to Mr. Razon’s infrastructure company Prime Metroline Holdings, Inc. 820 million common shares at P13 each or 25% stake.

Manila Water Chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala said in the statement that the partnership with the Razon group “will result in clear synergies to achieve Manila Water’s long-term goal of providing sustainable water and wastewater services.”

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Mr. Guevarra said his department was including the inputs on the financial and commercial provisions in the draft of the contract.

“Once consolidated, we may start discussions with the concessionaires in March,” he said.

Last month, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said the government would be offering new contracts to water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. following findings of state lawyers of onerous provisions in their concession agreements. He also said the government would push for criminal charges.

Among the onerous provisions found is the government’s non-interference in rate-setting. The extension of their contracts until 2037 even though their initial contract, which will last until 2022, has not expired, was also found to be irregular, Mr. Guevarra said late last year.

Mr. Duterte earlier said that the water concessionaires committed economic sabotage following separate court rulings that ordered the government to indemnify them. — Vann Marlo Villegas

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