Want to talk? Duterte tells water firms to return money first

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2020 07:54 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte. File

MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he might consider talking to water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water if the firms return money they had collected from the public under supposedly “onerous” contracts with the government.

Duterte said the government is trying to reach a settlement with the Philippine capital’s water distributors, which he has repeatedly described as the “biggest fish in corruption” in the country.

“Give us back the money, give it back to the people, and maybe we can talk about solving your problem,” the President told the water firms in a speech during the oath-taking of his new appointees in Malacañang.

“We’re trying to reach out for a settlement. Let us see how it develops,” he added.

The President had criticized the water distributors for collecting fees for a sewage treatment plant, saying the companies had not produced “even a can of clean water.”

He had also rejected an international court order to pay Maynilad and Manila Water over P10.8 billion as compensation for losses the water concessionaires incurred due to denied rate increases.

Last month, Duterte said he would order the cancellation of the water distributors’ existing concessions and the "nationalization of water services" in their respective areas should they reject a new contract from the government.

“It will not be the problem of this government. I am not afraid that there will be no water because I will just take over—a nationalized water [system] in the Philippines,” the President said.

As the government continues to crack down on supposedly onerous contracts, Ayala-owned Manila Water announced this week that port magnate Enrique Razon acquired 25 percent of the water firm, bringing P10.7 billion in fresh funding to the utility. Razon is also getting 51 percent voting rights in Manila Water.