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Filipinos free to file raps vs. water firms: Duterte

January 08, 2020 - Wednesday 3:01 PM by PNA

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MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not stop any Filipino from filing raps against Maynilad and Manila Water over the alleged “onerous” provisions in its concession agreements with the government.

“Well, I cannot stop anyone, especially a Filipino and a consumer of water, to file any case to what -- damages or anything. That's the worry of the concessionaires. It's not my worry actually,” Duterte said in a media interview at Malacañan Palace on Tuesday.

He said he would leave it to government officials or even the public to decide whether or not they wanted to run after the water concessionaires.

Duterte has repeatedly slammed the water concessionaires for treating water as a “commodity” and not as a natural resource.

He was angered by the fact that they made consumers shoulder the corporate income tax.

At present, parts of Metro Manila continue to experience water interruptions.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo bared that Duterte is giving the water concessionaires the option of accepting the new contracts without any guarantee of not being criminally prosecuted.

However, if the two water firms refuse to accept the new agreements, the President will order the cancelation of their present water contracts.

No rush

Duterte said he would not rush Maynilad and Manila Water into deciding whether they want to accept the new water concession agreements being prepared by the government which no longer has the alleged “onerous” provisions found in the existing deals.

He noted that as soon as the water firms are given copies of the new water concession agreements, they may take their time in agreeing to them or rejecting them.

“I am not hurrying them up,” Duterte said.

He also clarified that the new water contracts are not finalized yet and remain as “drafts.”

“I’m sure that one of the -- one or two of the Cabinet, I cannot mention their names, are working at it,” Duterte said.

Duterte earlier asked Solicitor General Jose Calida and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to prepare new water contracts that would be “favorable” to the government and the people.

The President said he could either nationalize water services or file plunder or estafa raps against them.

“I am proposing a new contract. You accept it. And if it's to your liking, sign it. If you don't, then there is no water, I will order the military to take over and I will nationalize the water, issue, and then I will file the corresponding charges,” Duterte said.

‘Not paying for anything’

Duterte also reiterated his refusal to heed the order of the Singapore arbitration court to pay Maynilad about PHP3.6 billion in damages for the company’s losses over the refusal to implement tariff adjustment for 2013 to 2017.

He also refused to pay PHP7.4 billion to Manila Water as compensation for losses and damages from delayed water rate increases since 2015.

“I am not paying anything. Forget the distributors, forget about that PHP7-billion arbitral award. I am not going to pay anything, not a single cent,” Duterte said.

Although initially open to seeking a dialogue with owners of the water concessionaires, Panelo said Duterte may no longer find it necessary. (PNA)