General Admission

Duterte girding for war vs water concessionaires

By Al S. Mendoza   

PRESIDENT Duterte seems determined to engage into “war” the owners of Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water Co.

He has drafted a contract to renew the agreements giving both companies the right again to sell/distribute water to the 16 million residents of Metro Manila.

So stern and angry is the President at the water concessionaires that even if the draft had yet to be finalized, he has warned both:  Reject it and you will be prosecuted for plunder.

Plunder, as our laws say, is non-bailable.

Meaning, if both the Ayalas of Manila Water and Manuel V. Pangilinan of Maynilad are charged by the President of economic sabotage, plunder and estafa, they will be thrown behind bars.

If that happens, they become the first billionaires to be jailed.

And since, as I have said, a plunder charge is non-bailable, they will stay in prison while they face the court in what could easily be—if it materializes at all—deemed as “The Trial of The Century” on Philippine shores.

But then, if we go by President Duterte’s body English, he looked bent on pursuing his threat.

In short, the ball in the hands of the Ayalas and Pangilinan.

They have no choice but to shoot and not to dribble.

Mr. Duterte was apparently irked by what he called “onerous provisions” of the 1997 contract giving the Ayalas and Pangilinan unlimited powers to amass profits from the agreement giving them exclusive rights as water concessionaires.

Calling the owners of the water firms the “biggest fish” in corruption, Mr. Duterte also lambasted the extension to 2037 of the 25-year water contract with Maynilad and Manila Water.

Said the President:  “Water is a God-given natural resource which cannot be treated as a mere commercial commodity and exploited to rake in billions of pesos in profits at the expense of the Filipino people.”

In a move to appease the President, the Ayalas and Pangilinan forfeited their court-ordered victory from Singapore, directing the Philippine government to pay Maynilad P3.4 billion and Manila Water P7.39 billion for lost revenues arising from rejected rate increases sought by the two firms.

The companies said they did it to avoid angering further the President, who continues to enjoy high public approval ratings.

If only for the record, the combined profits from 2013 to 2018 alone of the two firms soared to P82.43 billion, with Manila Water netting P36.71 billion and Maynilad P47.72 billion.

 How shameful, indeed, that they could stomach seeing the 16 million Manilans, including myself, suffer from severe water shortage last year while they are awash with cash?

Go, get ‘em, Mr. President.

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