Duterte warns military takeover of water services in Metro Manila
President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of a military takeover of water services in Metro Manila if negotiations between the government and the water concessionaires on the "onerous" contracts bogged down.
In a speech at the birthday celebration of former Senate President Manny Villar in Las Pinas City Thursday, Duterte said he told Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. to talk with state regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Administrator Emmanuel Salamat.
"I'll just prepare the charges if you fail to reach a settlement," he said, stressing that the case would be "economic plunder," which has "no bail."
"Last night I was talking to PSG (Presidential Security Group), I told them, don't play with me by threatening me...I will order the Armed Forces to operate. 'Okay soldiers, takeover," he added.
The President said he would also declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus only for the "saboteurs."
"If you fool me and the Filipinos, I will suspend the habeas corpus and I will arrest you. I want to see billionaires inside the jail," he said.
Duterte said his critics have been looking for big fish to go to jail.
Calling the water concessionaires as "crocodiles" also, he said these were examples of big fish whom the people want to see in prison.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo released copies of the letters sent to Duterte by Maynilad chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan and Manila Water chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala expressing their willingness to cooperate with the government to settle the issues pertaining to their contracts.
"Maynilad wishes to assure His Excellency of its willingness to cooperate with MWSS relative to HE's Directive to have certain provisions of the Concession Agreement reviewed and amended," said Pangilinan in a letter dated December 10.
In a separate letter dated December 10 also, Ayala said Manila Water decided not to collect the P7.39-billion arbitral award, to defer implementation of the approved water charge increase, and to start negotiation on the provisions of their contract with the government.
On reports that the two companies have threatened to increase the water rates by 100 percent following the decision of the MWSS revoking the extension of their concession agreements, Panelo said, "(they) can do their worst and continue with fleecing the consumers while the President will do his best in serving and protecting the interest of the people."
He said Duterte has not decided yet on the letters sent to him by the companies.
"There has been no acceptance by the President of their offer nor has he declined it. The subject is still under review by the President," he said.
"All legal options are open to him. It must be remembered that the President is a lawyer and a public prosecutor for many years hence knowledgeable on the provisions of the anti-graft law. An examination of the latter reveals that the contracts are on all fours with it. Stated differently, the agreements violate every prohibited act of the law," Panelo added. Celerina Monte/DMS