'Court, Congress have final say on paying Manila Water'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2015 04:10 PM

MANILA - It is now up to the courts to decide on the P79 billion case filed by Manila Water Co. against the Philippine government.

"It's a battle between lawyers," Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran said.

"[Manila Water] can't force us to pay without appropriation by Congress," he added.

Manila Water has decided to bring the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore after it alleged that the Department of Finance did not honor its Notice of Claim filed on April 23, 2015.

Manila Water is seeking to reimburse from government its losses in operating revenues arising from a significant diminution in the rate of return committed in its concession contract.

According to Beltran, any claims should go through a process.

"The Commission on Audit would kill us if we pay them outright. In the first place, Congress has the power of the purse," Beltran said.

Maynilad chief finance officer Randolph Estrellado, meanwhile, said they've been asking government to reimburse losses amounting to P3.4 billion since 2013.

Maynilad's losses are expected to grow as long as government refuses to grant the tariff hike despite being awarded a favorable decision via arbitration.

"The arbitration with the MWSS [Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System], we won that. What we did is we asked the regional trial court to order MWSS to give us our award. And the regional trial court has set the hearing on November 24, 2015," said Maynilad president Ricky Vargas.

Earlier this year, both Manila Water and Maynilad took the MWSS to international arbitration over the regulator's refusal to allow their proposed rate increases.