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Water concession agreements should be fair to Filipinos: Go

December 09, 2019 - Monday 6:12 PM by Ruth Palo

Article Banner Image WATER TALK. Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, seen here talking to reporters in Gubat, Sorsogon over the weekend, says Metro Manila water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water should fulfill their obligations to the Filipino people because the water ultimately belongs to them. Contributed photo

DAVAO CITY -- For Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, Metro Manila water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water should fulfill their obligations to the Filipino people because the water ultimately belongs to them.

"Tubig natin 'yun. Tubig ng Pilipino 'yun tapos tayo ang pinagbabayad ng taxes, hindi naman po maayos,” Go said in a statement as he visited typhoon Tisoy victims in Gubat, Sorsogon over the weekend.

(That’s our water. That water belongs to the Filipino people and yet we are the ones being made to pay the taxes. That’s not right.)

Go made the statement after the Singapore-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ordered the Philippine government to pay P7.39 billion in compensation to water concessionaire Manila Water after the government rejected water rate increases since 2015.

“Kung ipinangako nila sa contract, dapat nilang tuparin at huwag nilang ipasa 'yung hirap o burden sa mga tao," Go said, lamenting the poor service quality that the concessionaires provide.

(If they promised it in the contract, they should fulfill it and not pass the burden to the people.)

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier expressed his anger at the decision and threatened to file charges against the private water concessionaires.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has also revealed alleged onerous provisions deemed disadvantageous to the public because they prohibit the government from adjusting water rates.

Expressing his frustration, Go said, "Naghihirap na nga 'yung mga Pilipino, hirap pa tayo sa tubig sa Maynila tapos papahirapan niyo pa. Pagmamay-ari ng bawat Pilipino 'yung tubig na kanilang dini-distribute. Nagkataon lang sila ang nanalo ng kontrata. Dapat 'yung kontrata ay maging patas sa bawat Pilipino."

(Life is hard enough for many Filipinos, and getting water supply is also difficult, and yet they make it even harder. The water they distribute belongs to the people. It just so happens they won the contract. That contract should be fair for all Filipinos.)

Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo had earlier said under the Constitution, all natural resources of the Philippines, including water, belong to and are owned by the State.

“It is indisputable that water is intended for the use, enjoyment, and welfare of the citizens,” he said in a statement.

“The use and delivery of water is impressed with public interest hence  it is but a privilege and therefore must not be abused. Our water concessionaires in Metro Manila, Rizal, and Cavite, however, have not only abused the arrangement of delivering and distributing the State-owned water to the citizens but have treated the same as a commodity and a money making venture, instead of considering it as a public service,” Panelo said.

He said a review of the agreements with the Manila Water and Maynilad “reveals that they are contrary to public policy and public interest,  the same being onerous and disadvantageous to the people, relative the terms or periods, government non-interference, as well as concessionaire indemnification for losses.”

He said President Duterte has directed  the Department of Justice, together with the Office of the Solicitor General, to draft and prepare new covenants that are favorable to the State and the Filipino people. 

ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“The President has also directed the filing of the appropriate criminal, civil and administrative charges  against all those involved in the said agreements including the latter's owners and legal counsels, as well as agents and lawyers of the government for economic sabotage,” he added.

Panelo also said it is apparent that “some members of the government” have not only looked the other way but have in fact “purposely guided the hands of those who have raped our economy for their own personal aggrandisement.”

“Worse, they are hell-bent on bleeding our country dry. The proper delivery of basic services has not been fostered but thwarted to the outrageous  detriment of the Filipinos,” he said.

“We put everyone on notice that the constitutional command to the President to serve and protect the Filipino people shall be complied with passion and dedication, regardless of whatever power or influential groups are run over,” he added.

“Those who impede or derail the constitutional directive to the President to serve and protect the people shall find themselves behind bars with free food and lodging,” Panelo said.
 

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