Duterte unwilling to compromise over “onerous” water deals

By CNN Philippines Staff

President Rodrigo Duterte is determined to get to the bottom of the issues concerning water concessionaires and will meet with their officials to figure out how the troublesome deals came about. He said he would not agree to any compromise on the cases involving them.

In a speech in Malacañang Monday, Duterte said, “The fact alone that all these years, we were paying a fee para sa water treatment which never came into being all these years. Then, corporate income tax was passed on to the Filipino people.”

Duterte said he had heard that water concessionaires allegedly wanted to reach a settlement on the matter, but the President said he could not allow it to happen. He added he wanted to talk to lawyers involved in the deals.

“They fixed their rates for the people of the Philippines. We surrendered that sovereignty to them. Noong pinataas nila, hindi tayo nag-concur kaagad ang regulator, so they lost, we paid ₱3 billion. Ngayon, ₱7 billion. Kaya sabi ko, paano mo aaregluhin ‘yan ngayon. How? How will I compromise? That’s plunder. That’s classic economic plunder,” he said.

[Translation: They fixed their rates for the people of the Philippines. We surrendered that sovereignty to them. When they raised it, we did not immediately concur so they lost, we paid P3 billion. Now, it’s P7 billion. So I said, how do I allow that? How? How do I compromise? That’s plunder. That’s classic economic plunder]

The President previously said he would file plunder cases against Maynilad, Manila Water because of their supposedly onerous agreements with the government. 

“Kaya gusto ko silang makausap. Hindi ito maareglo hangga’t hindi ko makausap yung mga concessionaire. Gusto ko harap ang abogado ng gobyerno na p*********a gumawa ng kontrata na ito,” said the President.

[Translation: I want to talk to them. There will be no resolution as long as I don’t talk to the concessionaires. I want the government’s lawyer who made this g******d contract.]

He said government lawyers sold the country “down the drain.”

Duterte then jokes he would ask new Armed Forces Chief Noel Clement to being M16 rifles at his meeting with water concessionaires. He says he will have Clement kill them all.

Duterte also took a swipe at Senator Franklin Drilon whom, the President said, asked the government to look the other way regarding the issue.

“You know Senator Drilon, magkaibigan tayo at malaki ang respeto ko sa ‘yo [we are friends and I have a lot of respect for you]. Pero how dare you telling me not to make any move or even take a peek (at the water concession agreements) because we will be losing money? How dare you? Kasama ka ba dito [Are you involved in this]?” he said.

Duterte says Drilon asked Senator Bong Go to text him so he can know that the Senate Minority Leader had no hand in the water deals because he had already left the law firm ACCRALAW.

Speaking to CNN Philippines Monday morning, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government would appeal the ruling of an international tribunal which ordered officials to pay billions of refunds to water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water.

“We have options. Number one, we’re going to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court of Singapore. Either that, or if they want to enforce that, we will be opposing it,” Panelo told CNN Philippines’ New Day.

“Because that decision — arbitration cannot be enforced unless you file a petition in court for its reinforcement. We will oppose it, with grounds that that contract is against public policy and interest of the Filipino people,” he added.

A Singapore-based court earlier ordered the national government to pay ₱7.39 billion to Manila Water due to losses from rejected water hikes, the east zone concessionaire said in a November disclosure.

The Ayala-owned firm brought the government to court for refusing water rate hikes from 2013 to 2017.

In a similar case in 2016, the government was also ordered to reimburse ₱3.4 billion for west zone concessionaire Maynilad’s losses.

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