Duterte refuses to talk to new water investors

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 12 2020 10:25 PM

MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he refuses to talk to new investors in the water distribution business as he urged the public not to let the issue on the government's "onerous" contracts with water firms pass.

While he is ready to talk, Duterte said he would instead let his economic managers speak to new investors of the beleaguered water distributors as he again criticized Manila Water of the Ayalas, and the Pangilinan-led Maynilad.

“Of course, may bagong mga negosyante (there are new businessmen). They will infuse, I do not know for whatever the reason. While I am ready, not me, but yung ano economic managers ko na lang,” he said during a speech at the induction of new Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas officers.

“I refuse to talk to them. Pero if I do not make it to the finish line, kindly remember my words. Huwag niyo bitawan ito kasi dugo ito ng Pilipino,” he added.

(Don’t let this go because this is the blood of the Filipino)

The President made the remark a week after Manila Water announced that port magnate Enrique Razon acquired 25 percent of the water firm, bringing P10.7 billion in fresh funding to the utility. Razon also got 51 percent voting rights in Manila Water.

“How can I now proceed with a new contract acceptable to them with the entry of new businessmen? Okay 'yan. Paano 'yung ginawa ninyo? It is a contract with the --- infused with the entry of new businessmen,” Duterte said.

Duterte, who has repeatedly described Pangilinan and the Ayalas as the “biggest fish in corruption” in the country, had criticized the water distributors for collecting fees for a sewage treatment plant, saying the companies had not produced “even a can of clean water.”

He had also rejected an international court order to pay Maynilad and Manila Water over P10.8 billion as compensation for losses the water concessionaires incurred due to denied rate increases.

The President on Wednesday also hinted that a “big” law firm might be behind the government’s “onerous” contracts with the water firms.

“Ang nagplano niyan malaking opisina na law firm. They are the only ones who could do that. Government lawyers would never attempt even to...” he said.

Last month, Duterte said he would order the cancellation of the water distributors’ existing concessions and the "nationalization of water services" in their respective areas should they reject a new contract from the government.