By Benjamin Pulta
MANILA — Solicitor General Jose Calida on Friday said his office “will exhaust all available remedies” against the award recently made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore in the water concessionaires’ case against the republic.
In a statement, Calida said they were prompted to reply and tell the truth following public statements from Manila Water Co., Inc. on the controversy.
“Our next steps will show that the arbitral award was not, to quote Manila Water, due to a ‘procedural lapse’ by government. It is a company’s refusal to become the subject of a legitimate regulation,” he said.
“The OSG cannot just simply stand by and watch Manila Water spin the circumstances and paint itself as an exemplary, outstanding company.”
The arbitration proceeding, Calida said, “tells a very different story.”
He criticized the company’s claim of having spent billions on infrastructure improvement since the contract was awarded in 1997.
“(W)e can only ask what the millions of Manila Water customers have been asking and complaining of for the past year: if indeed billions went to investing in water infrastructure, then why is the public suffering from one of Manila’s worst water shortages for the past year?” Calida said.
Manila Water is a subsidiary of the Ayala Corp., while businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments Corp. owns a controlling stake in Maynilad.
The two private companies distribute water in Metro Manila and other parts of the country under agreements signed with state regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997.
In a speech on Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at the water concessionaires after a review conducted by the 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.”
Due to the two provisions, the government was ordered by the Singapore arbitration court to pay about PHP3.6 billion to Maynilad, and recently, PHP7.4 billion to Manila Water as compensation for losses and damages.
The justice chief said another onerous provision is the extension of these contracts to 2037, considering that the extension was granted 12 years to 13 years before the original expiration of the 25-year concession agreements in 2022. (PNA)