Duterte threatens to file economic sabotage raps over ‘onerous’ water contracts

Robie de Guzman   •   December 4, 2019   •   959

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to file economic sabotage cases against water concessionaires, Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc., and others involved in the supposedly ‘onerous’ water concession deals.

Duterte said some provisions of the concession contracts of the water firms, which were signed in 1997, are disadvantageous to the public.

He also described the contracts as lopsided, and vowed to go after officials who backed the contracts.

“Bakit pumayag ang mga senador diyan? Marami ‘yan sila, and we will expose them. And I will insist that they will be tried for economic sabotage. ‘Pag di nila tanggapin ang kaso na yan, I will tell the Supreme Court, ‘Now, now is the time that we talk seriously,’” he said in a speech in Malacañang on Tuesday.

“Ito ipafile ko ito, economic sabotage and I will arrest them. Lahat silang mga… Patikim ko sila paano ang buhay ng preso. Kung pati ako isasali nila, sasali ako sa presohan, walang problema yan,” he added.

Duterte did not name the senators whom he would want to be charged with economic sabotage, but in another speech in the Palace, he questioned Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon if he is among those who crafted the contracts.

“I distinctly recall that Drilon said something, ‘Oh President Duterte, do not tinker with that contract because we will end up paying so many billions of pesos,’” he said.

“Senator Drilon, are you one of those who profited from that? I’m asking you. I said I am ready to get out. I am not threatening you, but if I go down, I will bring you with me,” he added.

Duterte issued the threat after questioning the concession agreements entered into by the government agency Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) with the two private firms that prohibited government from setting water rates.

The deals also reportedly contain a provision on indemnity for possible losses in the event of such government interference.

These provisions were cited by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore when it recently ordered the Philippine government 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 president slammed the two companies and other “oligarchs” for treating water a commodity instead of a precious natural resource.

The Chief Executive, at one point, mentioned the Ayala family of Manila Water and Manny Pangilinan whose company has a stake in Maynilad.

“Ang ating tubig ginawang negosyo ng mga tao dito sa Pilipinas. Ang ngayon, ang inabutan natin ang may-ari na ngayon Manila Water, Maynilad, si Ayala pati si Pangilinan,” he said.

“We are being milked by billions and pinapabayad pa tayo ng mga fines and penalties,” he added.

Duterte said he already asked the Department of Finance and the Office of the Solicitor General to craft new concession agreements with water companies which will be advantageous to the public.

“Sabi ko kay (Finance Secretary Carlos) Dominguez pati kay (Solicitor General Jose) Calida, craft a new contract that is really a favorable to public, to government, ibigay mo sa kanila. This is the amended contract. Accept it or nothing to it,” he said.

Duterte earlier ordered the Department of Justice to review the government’s 1997 contract with Maynilad and Manila Water after water service interruptions crippled parts of Metro Manila and Rizal province earlier this year. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte tells telcos to report LGUs delaying permit processing

Robie de Guzman   •   July 31, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said telecommunications companies should report local government units that are obstructing the building of additional cell towers by delaying the processing of permits.

Duterte made the statement in a televised address after Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu told the president about their permitting woes in order to build more cell sites and improve their services.

“We are suffering ho from many, many years of this, before your administation, many administrations, 25 to 29 permit umaabot ng walong buwan tapos marami pa ho kaming miscellaneous fees ho. Iba-ibang klaseng tower fee. Mayroon kaming special use permit,” Cu said.

Cu met with Duterte after the latter threatened during his State of the Nation Address to shut down or expropriate telcos if no improvements are made in their services before December.

“Kasi sabi ko, ‘pag hindi mo pa na-improve ‘yan, I will hang you in one of your towers. Sabi niya, “Mayor, you cannot do that because there is no tower. The local governments are all f—–g it up,” Duterte told Cu in jest.

After hearing Cu’s concerns, the chief executive urged telcos to issue a formal complaint against local government units that are stalling the processing of permits for additional communication towers.

He also told telcos to report LGUs to proper authorities.

“Isumbong niyo na lang ng diresto at ang order ko sa Cabinet ngayon is to really take the, ‘kung pinakamabigat, the most drastic measure that you can find, para magkaintindihan. This is my last mile,” he said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, in the same briefing, said that local government units have been ordered to shorten the process and reduce the time spent in producing permits to 16 to 20 days.

“Dati po kailangan pa ng Home-Owners Association Resolution, kailangan pa ng Sangguniang Bayan Resolution, wala na po ‘yon. 16 days to 20 days po ang target para y’ong lahat ng permit ay tatakbo,” he said.

The government has been pushing for the ease of doing business to streamline the process in government agencies.

Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc. earlier said they are currently working on expansion plans to improve the communication services in the country. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

Duterte declares July 31 a regular holiday for Eid’l Adha

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has declared July 31, Friday a regular holiday in observance of Eid’l Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice of the Muslim community.

Malacañang said Duterte made the declaration through Proclamation No. 985.

The date was chosen based on the recommendation of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.

The president also reminded the public that the observance of the event shall be subject to existing community quarantine and social distancing measures. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte to announce new quarantine status before August 1 – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – New community quarantine classifications that would take effect in Metro Manila and other parts of the country in August will be announced by President Rodrigo Duterte before Friday, Malacañang said.

In a televised briefing on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) is set to meet this week to discuss data on the case doubling rate of the coronavirus disease as well as the critical care utilization in the country which will be submitted by the Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday.

Roque said the IATF will submit its recommendations for the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte once appeals by the local government units on the quarantine restrictions have been finalized.

Metro Manila is currently under general community quarantine (GCQ) as well as Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal, Lapu Lapu City, Mandaue City, Ormoc City, Southern Leyte, Talisay, Minglanilla, and Consolacion in Cebu Province, Zamboanga City, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, and Basilan in Mindanao.

Cebu City is under enhanced community quarantine while the rest of the country are placed under the more relaxed modified GCQ with strict local action.

Roque also said that “major changes” may be implemented in the government’s response against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), adding that these changes will focus more on the policies to contain the public health crisis.

He said these changes may include massive testing, “invigorated” tracing, and creation of more quarantine facilities.

As of July 28, the Philippines has recorded a total of 83,673 coronavirus infections, 55,109 of which are active cases.

The DOH said 1,678 additional cases were reported based on the total tests done by 81 of the 91 operational laboratories.

The department likewise reported 173 new recoveries, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 26,617. The death toll also increased to 1,947 with four new fatalities. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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