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Gov’t prepared to negotiate with 2 water firms – Palace

January 14, 2020 - Tuesday 12:01 AM by PNA

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The government is prepared to negotiate with the two Metro Manila water concessionaires on the proposed amended contracts and give them a chance to “right what is wrong,” according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Nograles, however, insisted that advancing the public welfare will be “non-negotiable” as the government moved to finalize the draft water concession contracts.

The new water contacts, reportedly being prepared by the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice, are expected to be finalized within six months.

“The government is being reasonable by going to the negotiating table and providing the water concessionaires with the opportunity to right what is wrong,” Nograles said in a statement Friday.

“We are willing to negotiate but the private sector must understand that the welfare of our people –– that is non-negotiable,” he added.

The President earlier denounced the alleged onerous concession contracts with Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. and authorized the crafting of new deals.

He has threatened to nationalize the water distribution service and send the water officials to jail for plunder or large-scale estafa if the two companies refuse to accept the proposed water agreements.

At present, Nograles said the concerned authorities are finalizing the terms and conditions of the proposed water contracts before presenting the document to the two water firms. He said onerous provisions found in the existing contracts have been either been “deleted, revised or amended.”

“The government legal team led by the Department of Justice has found numerous onerous provisions, but three stand out as particularly disadvantageous to the public,” he said.

“One, the deals allow the concessionaires to pass on corporate taxes that have nothing to do with water distribution to consumers. Two, it gives government zero say in rate increases. And three, there are issues involving our sovereignty when we allow conflicts to be resolved via international arbitration,” he added.

Nograles also said the government is duty-bound to protect the interest of consumers by identifying the “flaws” in the existing water deals and ensure “these are remedied moving forward.”

“The government lawyers will check and finalize the provisions (of the new water deals),” Nograles said in an interview with reporters at the Palace Friday.

“For financial and economic terms and conditions, the Secretary of Finance is also involved. These are being finalized before we present the final version of the amended contract to the two concessionaires,” he added.

He said they want to ensure the new water agreements would be legal and fair to all concerned. “We want to make sure all provisions in the amended contract will be the most advantageous to the general public,” he said.