MANILA- The Philippines "surrendered everything" in its water concession deals with distributors Maynilad and Manila Water, President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday as he criticized the supposedly onerous contracts.
Duterte said he wanted to know the lawyers who crafted the contracts as he noted that he could not stomach the supposedly unfair provisions in the deals.
"In that contract, pag mabasa mo (if you read it), our country surrendered everything to Manila Water and to Maynilad--everything, including the sovereignty," he said during a typhoon situation briefing in Legazpi City, Albay.
"Hindi ko ito masikmura...We have lost the sovereignty, we bargained it away. Gusto ko malaman sino ang mga abogado?" he added.
(I cannot stomach this...We have lost the sovereignty, we bargained it away. I want to know who are the lawyers behind this?)
The President earlier threatened to file economic sabotage charges against the 2 water distributors over their supposed treatment of water as a commodity instead of a natural resource.
Following the President's threats, both the Pangilinan-owned Maynilad and Ayala-led Manila Water expressed openness to discussing their respective contracts with the government.
"We understand where they're coming from and we are willing to sit down and look at the concession...We are fairly confident that we did nothing wrong," Maynilad chief operating officer Randy Estrellado said Thursday.
Manila Water, on the other hand, sought a "workable solution" with the Duterte administration.
"We wish to reiterate that Manila Water is more than willing and have started to work with the incumbent administration to come up with a workable solution to the arbitration decision," Manila Water said.
Duterte revealed that his interest in the water concession deals piqued in April, when parts of Metro Manila was plagued by a water crisis.
"Anong raket ito na patiisin mo ang Pilipino na walang tubig?" he said.
(What scheme is this that you let Filipinos endure the lack of water?)
The President then vowed to pursue charges against the water concessionaires, even slamming the Ayalas for supposedly playing the Filipinos into paying money due to the contract.
"Maybe mali ako but this is an economic case of economic plunder. Wala lang nakasilip nito," he said.
"Don't f*ck with me. I know you. Nilaro ninyo ang Pilipino sa pera. Sabi ko, I will pursue this if this is the only thing that I can achieve in this administration," he added.
(You played the Filipinos on money. I said I will pursue this if this is the only thing that I can achieve in this administration.)
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said the Duterte government would pursue legal action against the 2 water concessionaires if it fails to reach an agreement with the distributors.
The President, who earlier questioned the supposed involvement of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon in the contracts, also revealed that the lawmaker had denied a hand in the crafting of the deals.
Drilon sent a message to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, denying his involvement in the water concession contracts, Duterte said.
The President earlier said that was irked by Drilon's warning against "tinkering" with the water concession deals because "we will end up paying so many billions of pesos.”
"I have to know what's screwing the people here," Duterte said.