MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he is open to a public settlement with the Ayala-owned Manila Water and the Manny Pangilinan-led Maynilad over their water firms’ “onerous” contracts with the government.
Duterte however clarified that he cannot guarantee that the top officials of Maynilad and Manila Water will not be held liable for any irregularities regarding the concessionaire contracts.
“Sabi ko mag-areglo tayo. Of course, I can. I can talk to you but it must be in public,” the President said in a speech during a gathering of local chief executives in Pasay City.
“Ayoko makipag-usap ng ano…But I cannot assure you that you will not be prosecuted for graft and corruption or plunder,” he said.
The President last week told Pangilinan on the sidelines of an infrastructure project event that they should meet “soon.” Details of the looming meeting, however, have yet to be released.
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 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.
In January, the President warned that 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.