MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he has ordered the government’s lawyers to transmit the new water concession contracts to two water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad.
Speaking before the new presidential appointees, Duterte said he is giving the water companies the options to either accept the fresh deal or just let the government take over the water distribution system.
“You know, we are facing problems in and out of our country. Great problems. Locally, it’s the water issue. And I have given the go-signal to our lawyers to present it to the concessionaires,” the President said in a speech delivered at Palace’s Rizal Hall.
“And so I gave them the choice, not an ultimatum. We do not do that because we do not own government. At sinabi ko sa kanila (And I am telling them), ‘sign the new contract because if you don’t, I will nationalize, take over the operations and I’ll send you to jail.’ I have two years to do that and I can do it,” he added.
Duterte’s tirades against the two water firms started when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, in its separate rulings, ordered the Philippine government to pay PHP3.4 billion and PHP7.39 billion to Maynilad and Manila Water, respectively.
The Singapore court made the ruling following the losses the two water firms allegedly suffered due to non-implementation of increases in water rates.
The President insisted that the existing deals with Manila Water and Maynilad that contain “onerous” provisions are “null and void” from the very start.
He also maintained that the present water contracts violate Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Practices Act.
“But having been a prosecutor for so many years, my instinct really was, you know, to me and to the lawyers here, if you read the contract, you just use your two eyes, you will notice that right at the beginning it is already null and void. Iyon ang mahirap (That’s the problem). And if I go against one, I will go against all,” Duterte said.
“It was really at that time a conspiracy to defraud government. You’ll see, if you place the two documents: Republic Act 3019, that’s the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices and you place them face-to-face with the contract of the consumers, distributors, you would notice that all of the prohibited transactions in the Anti-Graft Law are really in the document itself,” he added.
In a chance interview on the sidelines of the mass oath-taking of presidential appointees, Panelo said the new water deal is still being “fixed” because there are “mechanics” that still need to be settled.
“‘Yung mechanics noon, kailangan pa nilang mag-konsulta sa development bank, ‘yung mga expert doon sa financing. May mga financing aspects ‘yun eh. Hindi ganoon kasimple ‘yun (We have to consult the development bank, the financing experts with regard to the mechanics. There are financing aspects there. It’s not that simple),” he said.
No assurance to drop raps vs. water firms
Earlier, the President also ordered the filing of appropriate criminal, civil, and administrative charges against the owners and legal counsels of Manila Water and Maynilad, as well as the agents and lawyers of the governments involved in the crafting of the water concession deals.
Duterte, in his latest speech, said he could not guarantee that his plan to file cases against the two water firms and other responsible individuals would be dropped.
“If you sign the contract sans the onerous provisions, but I do not give you a guarantee that no charges will be filed. For all that I can really say about this, I am not the only Filipino who is interested in the prosecution of crimes,” he said.
“That contract was never shown to the public. It was kept out, and suddenly we have a liability. You rob as blind in front,” he added.
On Dec. 12, 2019, Duterte threatened to order a military takeover of the operations of the two water concessionaires, in case the government fails to make amends with Manila Water and Maynilad.
Source: This news article titled Duterte gives go-signal to release new water deal was originally published in Philippine News Agency, written by Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos.
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