Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Manila Water admits Duterte's anger led to waiving of ₱7.4-B award

Ayala-led Manila Water on Wednesday admitted it decided not to demand billions of refund from the government in a bid to quell President Rodrigo Duterte's anger. "Ayaw po naming kalabanin ang Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. Mabuti po ang ginagawa niya para sa taong bayan at sumusuporta po kami. Humihingi po kami ng paumanhin kung nagalit siya dahil sa arbitral ruling," Manila Water Corporation President and CEO Jose Almendras said during a Senate hearing on the proposed creation of a water department.

[Translation: We do not want to be at odds with President Rodrigo Duterte. He's doing what's good for the people and we support him. We apologize if he got angry because of the arbitral ruling.]

Almendras said Manila Water did not mean to give Duterte a problem, further explaining that the case was filed in 2015, under the previous administration, and there was no way to stop the arbitral tribunal's decision.

The arbitration court recently ordered the Philippine government to pay the company ₱7.4 billion in losses stemming from rejected water rate hikes, a decision that came three years after Maynilad scored a ₱3.4-billion arbitral win. This prompted Duterte to lash out at the two utility firms, threatening to sue them and former government officials for economic plunder over supposedly onerous water concession agreements.

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go asked Almendras to clarify why they are raising the white flag now. The head of Manila Water answered, "Dahil po nag-react ang Pangulo, ayaw po naming galitin ang Pangulo (Because the President reacted and we did not want to make him angry)." Duterte, however, continued to lambast the water concessionaires on Tuesday, even threatening to "expropriate everything" if he's not satisfied with the explanation of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). He also insisted on talking to the lawyers who crafted the 1997 deals, saying he would suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which would allow warrantless arrests, if they fail to meet with him.
The government's contracts with Maynilad and Manila Water will end in 2022, after the MWSS revoked the resolution extending the effectivity to 2037.