Duterte threatens water concessionaires for economic sabotage

Manila Water, Maynilad reported to have ‘onerous’ contracts with gov’t

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, December 3, threatened to jail and file economic sabotage cases against Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services due to their 1997 contracts with the government which was described as “the world’s largest water privatization.”

“We will expose them. And I will insist that they be tried for economic sabotage,” he said in a speech in Malacañang.

“I will file this, economic sabotage, and I will arrest them all. I will let them taste of a prisoner’s life,” he added.

Duterte ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General to review the concession agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad after a water shortage was experienced by Metro Manila in March.

The DOJ, during Monday night’s (December 2) Cabinet meeting, informed Duterte of its findings — the government contracts with Manila Water and Maynilad had 12 onerous provisions that were disadvantageous not only to the government but more so to water consumers.

Among these provisions was the “prohibition against government interference in rate-setting, and the provision on indemnity for possible losses in the event of such government interference,” prompting the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore to order the Philippine government to pay Maynilad about P3.6 billion for losses and damages and recently P7.4 billion to Manila Water

Duterte, for his part, has ordered Solicitor General Jose Calida and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to create a new water concession contract that is favorable to the public and the government.

“This is the amended contract, accept it or nothing to it,” he said.

The president also slammed the two private water firms for treating water like a commodity and not as a natural resource.

“The contract is so one-sided, because if they fail to realize the profit during the lifetime of the contract or at any period, we will pay for their losses. You sons of bitches, if that is so,” he said.

According to Duterte, the government was not allowed to raise or lower water rates, and that the private water firms kept on charging the public for wastewater treatment facilities that were never built.

“I said I’m ready to go. But if it’s like this, I will not go without a bang. I will expose these rich people who are profiteering from the nation for free. Corruption is really at the top, not at the level of the Customs,” he said. 

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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