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End to happy days loom for two water companies

December 10, 2019 - Tuesday 4:12 AM by MDM

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The days when Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. are running it roughshod over Metropolitan Manila are about to be over.

The first company is a subsidiary of Ayala Corp., while Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (owned by the oligarch Manuel V. Pangilinan) owns a controlling stake in Maynilad. 

These two private companies distribute water in Metro Manila and in the southern Tagalog region under agreements signed with state regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997.

The situation came to a head when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore ordered the Philippine government to pay Maynilad the sum of P3.6 billion in damages arising supposedly losses and damages.

In addition, the PCA has ordered the government to pay the sum of P7.4 billion to the Ayala-Manila Water supposedly for the same reasons. Both companies said the losses were incurred after they were denied water rate increases since 2013.

The government can always ignore both rulings if it wants to, in the same manner that China has refused to recognize an arbitration ruling favoring the Philippines in the West China Sea.

But this is something else. In a visit to Bicol recently, Duterte accused the two concessionaires of economic plunder and sabotage.

 In his estimate, their contracts are onerous in that government bargained its sovereignty away to them. On the other hand, both companies said the contracts arose out of “procedural lapses” on the part of government.

Tasked to file cases of economic plunder or sabotage against them, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the PCA proceedings tell a different story.

 “(W)e can only ask what the millions of Manila Water customers have been asking and complaining of for the past year: if indeed billions went to investing in water infrastructure, then why is the public suffering from one of Manila’s worst water shortages for the past year?” Calida said.

Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, a former mayor of Manila, lauded Duterte in his bid to free the Filipino people from the clutches of the oligarchy.

“Where have you seen a contract where the concessionaires can lose and always end up making hundreds of billions of pesos at the expense of the people?” he asked.

With the government’s resolve to file the cases, expect the end of happy days for two companies that have bled the economy dry since 1997. Enough is enough.