MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte is open to "explore" an "out-of-court settlement" with tycoons behind the Philippine capital's water distribution utilities, after he apologized to them over "hurting words," his spokesman said Tuesday.
Tycoons Manuel Pangilinan, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, and Fernando Zobel de Ayala had said they were thankful for the President's gesture and committed to continue helping the government's COVID-19 response.
Pangilinan's Metro Pacific controls Maynilad Water Services Inc while the Ayalas have a stake in Manila Water. The President had accused the utilities of milking the public by billions in reference to arbitration payments that were later dropped.
"I think that's an indication na kung pupwedeng out-of-court settlement, he (Duterte) would explore out-of-court settlement," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
Duterte on Monday night thanked the businessmen for contributing to the pandemic response then apologized to Pangilinan and the Ayalas.
"Yung mga masakit kong salita, 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.
The government is renegotiating its concession agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad.
"Batas naman ang umiiral diyan (The law prevails there). I'm sure the legal studies and legal examination will proceed," he said.
"Kumbaga sa ordinaryong kasuhan, 'usap muna tayo bago tayo magdemandahan.' Siguro yun po ang ibig sabihin ng ating Presidente," he added.
(In terms of ordinary cases, the President probably meant "let's talk first before taking things to court.)