PH sovereignty "bargained away" to water concessionaires, says Duterte
The Philippines' sovereignty was "bargained away" in the concession agreements that the previous administrations signed with the two largest water companies in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte said.
In the situation briefing on the effects of Typhoon "Tisoy" in Bicol Region held in Legazpi City on Thursday night, Duterte vowed to send to jail the owners of Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. by pursuing "plunder," which according to him was a non-bailable offense.
"We have lost the sovereignty. We bargained it away," he said, adding that water should be treated as a natural resource of a country and not as a commodity.
The water concession agreements of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System with Manila Water and Maynilad were signed in 1997 during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos.
While the 25-year deals have yet to expire in 2022, the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo extended them up to 2037.
"About seven years before, they already renewed (the contracts) and they were granted extension during the time of Gloria," Duterte said.
Duterte, who is a lawyer by profession, said he could not accept some provisions of the contracts, which are disadvantageous to the government.
Citing the findings of the Department of Justice, he said the contracts prohibit the government's interference in rate-setting and the provision to indemnify the water concessionaires in the event of such interference.
Duterte had ordered the DOJ to study the contracts with the two firms amid the decision of the Singapore-based Arbitral Tribunal ordering the government to indemnify Manila Water with P7.4 billion for its actual losses from June 1, 2015 to Nov. 22, 2019 for breach of contract.
Three years ago, the arbitration court also directed the Philippine government to pay Maynilad P3.6 billion as compensation for losses or damages.
"On their rates, their losses, we have to bear it, we have to pay for their losses. Then their income tax, son of a b****, we have to pay...you don't have any choice on the rates. I said, if you look at the law, maybe I'm wrong, but this is a classic case of economic plunder," the President said.
He vowed to pursue the case up to the end.
"I will pursue this. If this is the only thing that I can achieve in this --- in my administration, let it be," he said.
Duterte said he would file plunder case.
"The plunder, Mr. Ayala, it's no bail. I want to see billionaires inside jail," he said.
Fernando Zobel de Ayala is the chairman of the board of Manila Water, while Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala is the vice-chairman.
Maynilad, on the other hand, is chaired by Manuel V. Pangilinan.
Duterte also disagreed with the water firms that since those affected would only be in the east and west zones of Metro Manila and nearby areas, they could just adjust the rates.
But he said it is the entire Filipino people who are affected as it would involve the government's fund.
"That money is not only the money of Metro Manila nor of the east or of the west. It is money of the entire Republic of the Philippines," Duterte explained.
He said he would not allow those people involved in the contracts get off the hook as he would also bring the issue to Congress.
Duterte lamented that other news agencies did not publish the issue.
"It's not being published...they are controlling the damage," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS