MANILA — Malacañang said on Monday government has completed the renegotiation of a new, "advantageous" concession deal with Manila Water Inc, over a year after President Rodrigo Duterte's administration alleged that existing agreements "rip off" the public.
"Matapos po ang isang taon, kinukumpirma po natin, natapos na ang renegosasyon ng 1997 concession agreement kasama ang Manila Water Corporation," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
(After a year, we confirm that the renegotiation for the concession agreement with Manila Water Corporation is finished.)
"Isang revised concession agreement ang nabuo na nagbibigay ng mas maganda serbisyo ng tubig sa Metro Manila at advantageous sa pamahalaan at consumers," he added.
(A revised concession agreement was formed that gives better water service in Metro Manila, and is advantageous to government and consumers.)
The new deal removes clauses that ban government "interference", and recognizes Manila Water as a public utility which makes it "more accountable" to the government and public, among others, he said in a press briefing.
Under the deal, the debt and expenditures of the concessionaire should first be approved by regulators, said Roque.
Corporate income taxes and expenses due to foreign exchange rate fluctuations will not be charged to the consumer, under the new agreement, he added.
There will also be a tariff freeze until Dec. 31, 2022, Roque said.
Manila Water disclosed to the stock market that it has received a copy of the new deal, which confirms the continuation of its concession until July 31, 2037.
"The rate rebasing mechanism under the original CA is retained," the company said.
Water and sewerage services rates will be set at a level that will permit Manila Water to recover expenditures "efficiently and prudently" and earn a reasonable rate of return over the term of the concession, the company said in its disclosure.
Manila Water's stock closed 0.12 percent higher at P16.10a share at the end of Monday's trading.
Duterte in January last year told Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services that they accept the new contracts "with no guarantee that they will not be prosecuted" or otherwise he would "nationalize the water system and prosecute them for plunder or estafa on a large scale."
"Ang susunod naman po, ang Maynilad," said Roque.
(Maynilad will be next to get a new deal.)
Negotiations for the Maynilad deal "will start immediately" with government "proposing essentially the same terms and conditions as those that were contained in the revised agreement with Manila Water," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in the same briefing.
The Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice were tasked to replace the "constitutionally flawed" concession agreements that "violated every prohibited act under the Anti-Graft Law," the President's chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo had said.
Duterte "cannot, will not, and can never keep a blind eye to this colossal rip-off," Panelo said.
Last May, the President apologized to the Ayala family, which owns Manila Water, for attacking them in his past speeches.
"To the Ayalas and to, si Pangilinan, 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 in a recorded public address.
Duterte has been criticizing those he calls "oligarchs" since the start of his term.
More details to follow.