MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has offered water companies, Maynilad and Manila Water, new concession deals that will replace existing agreements with provisions that are allegedly disadvantageous to the government and the public, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president made the offer after the Department of Justice and Office of the Solicitor General presented the new contracts during their Cabinet meeting on Monday night.
Panelo said the new concession contracts do not contain the supposedly onerous provisions in the existing contracts which were signed in 1997.
“The Chief executive is giving the water concessionaires the option of accepting the new contracts without any guarantee of not being criminally prosecuted together with those who conspired to craft the very onerous contracts which are void ab initio for violating the constitution and the laws of the land,” he told reporters at a Palace briefing.
Should Maynilad and Manila Water refuse to accept the new contracts, Panelo said Duterte will order the cancellation of their current concession deals, and prosecute all those behind the crafting of the 1997 water agreement.
He would also order for the nationalization of water services in their respective areas of operation.
“Should Maynilad and Manila Water refuse to accept the new agreements, the Chief Executive will order the cancellation of their present water contracts, mandate the nationalization of water services in their respective areas of operation and prosecute all those involved, directly or indirectly, in the arrangement that led to the present suffering of the Filipino people,” Panelo said.
In a statement, Maynilad said it has yet to receive a copy of the revised agreement. It also gave reassurance of continuing cooperation amid its contract woes.
Manila Water has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
Duterte did not provide a deadline to the water concessionaires about his offer.
The water firms’ woes came after Duterte assailed the two Metro Manila water concessionaires for allegedly taking advantage of the ‘onerous, lopsided’ contracts to “milk” Filipinos by the billions.
The chief executive earlier threatened to file economic sabotage raps against the water concessionaires and other officials involved in the crafting of the deals following the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore’s order to pay Manila Water P7.4 billion, and Maynilad P3.6 billion about two years ago as compensation for losses or damages.
The two water firms separately took the government to court after the MWSS rejected their respective petitions to raise water rates a few years ago. The firms cited its concession deal which prohibits the government from setting water rates, and pushes for indemnification for possible losses in the event of such government interference.
But the two firms in December said they will no longer pursue the awards, and assured cooperation as the present government reviews the provisions in the agreements. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)