MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he is amenable to the new contracts with private water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water, so long as the new deal is “fair” and would ensure the “return of the money” to their customers.
In a taped public address aired on state-run PTV-4 on Friday, Duterte said he would review the fresh contracts with the two water firms that were crafted by the government.
“Starting tomorrow, I think the papers are with me now, I will review the contracts that are proposed by the government panel to the Ayala and Pangilinan consortium. Ako, okay na ako basta mabawi lang ang pera ng tao even in installments (I’m good, so long as the people’s money is returned, even in installments), but you have to make some amends,” he said.
Manila Water is a subsidiary of the Ayala Corp., while Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments Corp. owns a controlling stake in Maynilad.
In December 2019, Duterte warned to file cases against the two water concessionaires for allegedly entering into onerous agreements with the government.
Duterte’s tiff with Ayala and Pangilinan began after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, in separate rulings, compelled the Philippines to pay PHP7.39 billion and PHP3.4 billion to Manila Water and Maynilad, respectively, for supposed losses and damages suffered by the two water companies.
In his latest speech, Duterte admitted that he was initially “adamant” about not being lenient towards the two water firms.
He, however, said he is now “calm” since he knows the importance of water in people’s lives.
“Nag-kalma ako kasi (I have to be calm because), whether I like it or not, water is very important in our lives. So okay na lang ako pero ‘yung nawala sa tao, kung ano ‘yung nawala sa kanila (So I have to be okay with that, but the money taken from the people), that has to be paid back, whether installments over a period of years,” Duterte said.
The government is currently attempting to strike a new and better deal with Manila Water and Maynilad.
Ayala and Pangilinan have both expressed readiness to cooperate with the government.
On January 7, Duterte told Manila Water and Maynilad that they could either accept the new water contracts or face cancellation of their present deals.
The President said he is willing to make amends with the two water concessionaires, in the event that they accept a “fair” deal with his administration.
“You can have your contracts if it is to your liking. If it’s not, then we proceed to another phase, which is really the filing of the cases,” he said. “I’m willing to forget, just give us a contract that is fair and also a fair return of the money of the people.”
Duterte on May 4 became open to resolving conflicts with Ayala and Pangilinan after the two business owners helped the government respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. (PNA)