MANILA (UPDATED) — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed laws granting 25-year franchises to the country's two largest water firms, some 2 years after he demanded new deals to replace their contracts, which his administration said "rip off" the public.
Republic Act 11600 allows Maynilad Water Services, Inc. to continue its operations in the west zone service area of Metro Manila and Cavite province.
RA 11601 meanwhile allows the Manila Water Company, Inc. to resume its business in the the capital region's east zone service area and neighboring Rizal province.
Both laws required the water concessionaires to ensure that service interruptions are “minimal.”
Maynilad and Manila Water shall improve their facilities “as far as feasible and whenever required by the Regulatory Office” the laws said.
“The [franchise] grantee shall charge reasonable and just fees for its services to all types of consumers and water users,” stated both laws.
Maynilad and Manila Water are required to submit a plan for “achieving one hundred percent (100%) water, sewerage, and sanitation coverage by 2037.”
The firms must also submit an annual report on their compliance with the franchise. Failure to do so shall be penalized by a fine of P1 million for each day of noncompliance.
Duterte in December 2019 demanded new contracts with the capital’s water concessionaires after they won arbitration cases in Singapore against the government.
“A review of the agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad reveals that they are contrary to public policy and public interest, the same being onerous and disadvantageous to the people,” his then spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Maynilad and Manila Water serve a combined 16 million customers under concession deals signed in 1997.
In May 2020, Duterte apologized for attacking the Ayala Group and Manuel Pangilinan, who run Manila Water and Maynilad, respectively.
“I apologize for the hurting words. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me because if you do not, if you do not want to forgive me, I will undercut you, I will go direct to God," Duterte said, adding he recognized businessmen's help during the COVID-19 crisis.
Manila Water and Maynilad signed new deals with the government in March and May last year, respectively.
— With a report from Reuters
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