By Azer Parrocha
MANILA — The Philippines “lost” its sovereignty when the government entered into alleged onerous water concession agreements with Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co., President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday night.
Duterte lashed out anew over the deals made between state regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the two water concessionaires in 1997, which were disadvantageous to the government and the public.
“Alam mo ‘yung contracts, ‘pag nabasa mo (You know the contracts, if you read them), our country surrendered everything to Manila Water and Maynilad. Everything including the sovereignty,” Duterte said in a situation briefing he presided over in Legazpi City.
“We have lost the sovereignty. We bargained it away,” he added.
The President said that the owners of the two water concessionaires allegedly have committed “economic plunder” by making the government pay them billions of pesos for damages.
“This is a classic case of economic plunder. Wala lang nakasilip nito e (Nobody noticed it),” Duterte said.
“Nilaro ninyo ‘yung Pilipino sa pera. Sabi ko (You played Filipinos with money. I said), I will pursue this. If this is the only thing that I can achieve in this — in my administration, ito na lang. Bibirahin ko talaga (just this. I will run after them) economic plunder,” he added.
He also slammed the owners for making consumers shoulder the corporate income tax.
“Then ‘yung income tax nila. P***** i** nila tayo ang magbayad (we have to pay for it),” Duterte said.
“It is money of the entire Republic of the Philippines. Kaya sila ang constituents ko. Pera ng gobyerno ‘yang ibinayad namin sa income tax ninyo (They are my constituents. It’s government money that was used to pay for your income tax),” he added.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore has ordered the government to pay Maynilad about PHP3.6 billion in damages for the company’s losses over the refusal to implement tariff adjustment for 2013 to 2017.
Recently, the court also asked the government to pay PHP7.4 billion to the Ayala-Manila Water as compensation for losses and damages from delayed water rate increases since 2015.
Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments Corporation owns a controlling stake in Maynilad while Manila Water is a subsidiary of Ayala Corporation.
Because of the alleged irregular water concession agreements, Duterte reminded the Ayalas in particular that plunder is a non-bailable offense.
“I’ll file plunder. Ang plunder, ‘adre, Mr. Ayala, no bail ‘yan. Gusto makita na bilyonaryo na makulong (Plunder has no bail. I want to see a billionaire jailed),” Duterte said.
Earlier, a review conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) showed the water contracts were “onerous and disadvantageous to the people, relative the terms or periods, government non-interference, as well as concessionaire indemnification for losses”.
Since then, the President has directed the DOJ and the Office of the Solicitor General to draft a new water concession contract that is “favorable to the State and the Filipino people”.
He also asked them to file economic sabotage cases against all those involved in the agreements.
Drilon’s text message
Duterte, meanwhile, bared that Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has denied involvement in the crafting of the irregular water contracts.
Drilon earlier warned the President against reviewing the contracts because the government will end up paying billions.
“He (Drilon) sent a text to Bingbong (Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea), binasa niya kagabi sa akin (he read it to me last night),” Duterte said.
“Sabi niya doon, ‘Sabihin mo kay Rody wala na ako sa ACCRA ‘yung panahon na’ yun.’ (He said,‘Tell Rody that I was no longer with ACCRA during that time.’),” he added.
Duterte, however, clarified that he did not say that ACCRA, a law firm, was involved in the deals. (PNA)