Accept new contracts or face cancelation, PRRD to water firms

Water firms Maynilad and Manila Water can either accept the new water contracts favorable to the government and the public or face cancelation of their present deals, MalacaAang said on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte made this decision during the 45th Cabinet meeting on Monday night, after listening to a presentation made by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

"The Chief Executive is giving the water concessionaires the option of accepting the new contracts without any guarantee of not being criminally prosecuted together with those who conspired to craft the very onerous contracts which are void ab initio for violating the Constitution and the laws of the land," Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

"Should Maynilad and Manila Water refuse to accept the new agreements, the Chief Executive will order the cancellation of their present water contracts," he added.

Panelo also said Duterte will not hesitate to order the nationalization of water services in their respective areas of operation.

The President also ordered the prosecution all those involved directly or indirectly in the arrangement that led to "the present suffering of the Filipino people", he added.

Panelo said the new water contracts were the result of a collaboration of the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General with the help of the Department of Finance, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

"The terms will be very, very different from the previous one," Panelo said.

He said Duterte did not give the water concessionaires any deadline for them to accept the new contracts drafted by the government.

Asked if the President was still open to seeking a dialogue with owners of the water concessionaires, Panelo said he no longer found it necessary.

Di na kailangan siguro (I don't think it's necessary anymore), Panelo said.

Duterte's verbal attacks against the two water firm owners began after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore ordered the government to pay Maynilad about PHP3.6 billion in damages for the company's losses over the refusal of the regulator, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), to allow the firm to raise water rates from 2013 to 2017.

The Singapore court also asked the government to pay PHP7.4 billion to the Ayala-Manila Water as compensation for losses and damages from delayed water rate increases since 2015.

Duterte described the water concession agreements as disadvantageous to the government and the Filipino people.

He said he would not hesitate to have billionaires detained over syndicated estafa or plunder raps.

The President also floated the possibility of asking the military to take over water operations.

Panelo, meanwhile, said the President stressed anew that water is a natural resource and cannot be used merely as a commercial commodity.

As President, he cannot and will not, and can never keep a blind eye to this colossal rip-off, Panelo said.

As the President previously uttered in righteous indignation and outrage to them, 'If you will not give justice to the Filipino people, I will get it for them.' There is a time for reckoning and that time has come, he added.

Duterte earlier said the present water deals mirror the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law or Republic Act 3019.

"Yung kontratang existing, ayaw namin 'yun, illegal 'yun. Eto 'yung bago, ibibigay namin sa inyo. Tanggapin niyo iyan (We reject the existing contracts, they're illegal. These are the new contracts. Accept them)," he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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