MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte urged Wednesday the Philippine capital region’s water distributors to accept the government’s offer of a new water concession contract, telling them to “pray that nobody will be interested” in the new deal.
“So tanggapin ninyo ‘yan (Accept it). Pray that nobody will be interested because I will really if somebody... if I decide to go after you, I will see to it that a billionaire goes to prison,” Duterte said in a speech during the oath-taking ceremony of newly appointed government officials in Malacañang.
Should Maynilad and Manila Water refuse the contract, Duterte said he could "nationalize" water services and "prosecute them for plunder or estafa on a large scale."
“I gave them the choice, not an ultimatum. We do not do that because we do not own government. At sinabi ko sa kanila, ‘sign the new contract because if you don’t I will nationalize, take over the operations and I’ll send you to jail.’ I have two years to do that and I can do it,” the President said.
The government, through the Department of Justice and Office of the Solicitor General, is drafting a new contract that will be presented to Maynilad and Manila Water in 6 months, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday.
“There will be a process of discussion and renegotiation. It's not a 100-percent take it or leave it thing. We are reasonable in so far as this matter is concerned," Guevarra told DZMM radio.
Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier assured the public that there would be no third player in Metro Manila’s water distribution system in the event that Maynilad and Manila Water reject the new contract.