Duterte to read water firms’ letters before public

President Rodrigo Duterte will read before the public the letters of the water concessionaires expressing willingness to revisit the supposed onerous concession agreements, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President decided to read the letters of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. as signed by their owners, businessmen Manuel V. Pangilinan and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, respectively, for “transparency.”

“The Chief Executive will read the letters of Maynilad and Manila Water before the public for transparency and to show that all the steps being undertaken by the government in resolving this issue with the two Metro Manila water concessionaires are aboveboard and legitimate,” Panelo said in a statement.

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Panelo said the President will also review the practical and legal consequences of the situation before making his next move.

He noted that President also wanted to speak with all government lawyers involved in the drafting of the existing concession agreements to determine why they allowed the onerous provisions.

“These companies not only have inefficiently delivered water to the households but exacted unconscionable amounts from the taxpayers,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, Panelo welcomed the letter of Manila Water which states that it will no longer pursue its claims in the amount of PHP7.39 billion against the government and that it will defer the implementation of their supposed water charge increase.

He also acknowledged how Maynilad president and chief executive officer Ramoncito Fernandez bared in a legislative hearing that they will no longer pursue its arbitral award in 2017 in the amount of PHP3.4 billion against the government.

“The Filipino people have just been protected from paying a total amount of at least PHP10.8 billion, an obligation which has no legal basis, to private entities,” Panelo said.

“Once again, the President exercising political will, coupled with his ability to ascertain inequities in contract law as well as his character to identify with the plight of the ordinary Filipinos, has protected their interest, in obedience to the constitutional command to serve and protect the people,” he added.

In a hearing at the House of Representatives, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) deputy administrator for engineering Leonor Cleofas said it has revoked the resolution extending the concession agreement with Maynilad Water and Maynila.

Cleofas said the decision to revoke the resolution adopted in 2008 was reached during a board meeting last December 5.

The board resolution extended the concession agreements with the water companies by another 15 years from 2022 to 2037.

Duterte’s quarrel with water concessionaires and government lawyers started after the government was ordered by the Singapore arbitration court to pay for the two water concessionaires damages.

The President earlier threatened to file economic sabotage cases against all involved in the crafting of the water deals and asked Department of Justice and Office of the Solicitor General to craft new water concession agreements that are “favorable to the State and the Filipino people”.

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