AYALA-LED Manila Water Co., Inc. is negotiating a new concession contract with the government ahead of a separate negotiation with Maynilad Water Services, Inc., the Justice secretary said on Thursday.

“[T]he water concession review panel is currently negotiating with Manila Water,” said Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra in a mobile phone message to BusinessWorld.

When asked at which stage the negotiation has reached, he said, “much progress has been achieved.”

According to Mr. Guevarra, the negotiation is led by the Department of Finance. He also said that the negotiation with the other water concessionaire, Maynilad, will start once talks with Manila Water are done.

In November last year, President Rodrigo R. Duterte tasked the Department of Justice to discuss with Metro Manila’s two water providers the revision of their existing concession contracts, which he claimed to contain “onerous” provisions.

Mr. Duterte’s directive was a response to an international arbitration court’s ruling that the Philippine government must pay Maynilad P3.4 billion and Manila Water P7.4 billion for losses incurred when the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System rejected their request for an increase in water rates.

The concessionaires opted not to demand payment, and said they were open to review the terms of their separate contracts with the government. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago