MANILA, Philippines - Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson on Monday blamed the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) for allegedly linking him to a "midnight deal" between the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and Maynilad Water Services Inc., a company which he used to head before joining government.
In an interview, Singson said he has received reports that the "midnight deal" accusation was the MWSS board's payback after they were accused of receiving heft bonuses.
"Yan nga po ang usap-usapan sa loob. This is coming from the board. We understand it because they were accused of getting excessive allowances," he said in an ABS-CBN "Umagang kay Ganda" interview.
Last week, President Benigno Aquino III singled out the MWSS board members for receiving P2.5 million each in annual bonuses.
He said that in 2009, the MWSS payroll totaled P51.4 million plus additional allowances and benefits amounting to P160.1 million or a total of P211.5 million. Aquino said that 76% of MWSS' payroll are additional allowances and benefits, of which only 24% are standard salaries.
Bonuses and allowances, he said, were equivalent to up to 30 months of salaries.
He said that these people could not be removed from their posts immediately because many of them were midnight appointees of former President Gloria Arroyo.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer, meanwhile, said Singson, who was then president of Maynilad, teamed up with then PAGCOR chief Efraim Genuino for a water concession deal that would have supposedly deprived the government of at least P3.6 billion in water fees.
The report said an MWSS board member said "Singson wanted the contract in place before Genuino stepped down because the new PAGCOR management might not play ball with Maynilad."
For his part, Singson denied that the water concession agreement was a midnight deal because the transaction is very transparent.
He said Maynilad first wrote MWSS about the water concession agreement in February 9, 2009 because PAGCOR needed water for its proposed Entertainment City in a reclaimed area in Parañaque. He said that since the new gambling area was in the West zone franchise area, then MWSS should automatically get the contract.
"When Maynilad submitted its business plan in 2008, this investment was already included. We needed 2 reservoirs in the southern portion of Metro Manila because it lacked water. One is in Villamor and the other is in the reclaimed area," he said.
He added that the MWSS had yet to sign the water concession agreement due to some revisions. The PDI report said some MWSS board members argued that the regulator should charge Maynilad an additional concession fee for getting a bonus expansion in its coverage area.
On Sunday President Aquino backed Singson and said there was no midnight deal.
"Iyong basic thrust of his position is that Genuino as chair of PAGCOR needed to assure potential locators that it had adequate water, electricity etc, before he could attract investors," he said.
He added that PAGCOR is still reviewing the concept of the Entertainment City. "So as far as they are concerned, this is a non-existing bid," he said.