MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte cannot be swayed into a compromise on the government's supposedly onerous water concession contracts with Maynilad and Manila Water, Malacañang said Friday following the concessionaires' threat to double water rates.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo reminded the water distributors of their previous offer to retain existing water rates after Duterte threatened to pursue charges of "economic sabotage" and economic plunder against them.
"These concessionaires can do their worst and continue with fleecing the consumers while the President will do his best in serving and protecting the interest of the people," Panelo said.
"The concessionaires are put on notice that the Chief Executive will not renege from his constitutional duty of enforcing the law. Neither will he be swayed nor enticed into accepting a compromise," he added.
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has revoked the extension of the concession agreements with Maynilad and Manila Water since it had "no legal basis," according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
The government’s concession contracts with the Ayala-owned Manila Water and the now Pangilinan-led Maynilad were originally signed in 1997 during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos.
While the agreements were set to expire in 2022, the government, in 2009, extended it for another 15 years or until 2037. This was done during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, an ally of President Duterte.
As earlier promised, Malacañang on Friday released letters sent by Maynilad and Manila Water to the President, wherein the water firms said they were open to a review of their concession agreements.
"We are in solidarity with [President Duterte] in his desire to provide our people access to water and wastewater services at affordable rates," Maynilad said.
Manila Water, meanwhile, said in its letter to the President that it would no longer seek P3.4 billion in compensation from the government.
"Mr. President, we heed your call to revisit and re-negotiate certain provisions of the concession agreement. We fully share your mandate to put the interest of the people as the primary objective," Manila Water said.
According to Panelo, Duterte has yet to decide on the renegotiation of the government's contracts with the 2 water distributors.
"There has been no acceptance by the President of their offer nor has he declined it. The subject is still under review by the President," Panelo said.
Duterte earlier warned that he would "expropriate everything" from the 2 water distributors unless he is satisfied with their explanation of their concession agreement.