Duterte blames water firms for Manila Bay ‘contamination’

Credit to Author: Catherine S. Valente, TMT| Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2020 05:00:46 +0000

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has stepped up his attacks against Maynilad Water Services, Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc., this time blaming them for heavy contamination in Manila Bay.

Speaking during the celebration of the 120-year presence of the Baptist Churches in the Philippines on Thursday night, Duterte said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who leads the Manila Bay Task Force, could never totally clean up Manila Bay because the two firms failed to establish water treatment facilities.

“Manila Bay could never be improved by Cimatu. All he can do is to reduce the contamination. Why? Because there is no water treatment,” the President said in his speech.

“Until now, all the wastewater is blown, every day, to the Manila Bay. And that job was supposed to be done by the one who got the contract of water, sewer, and sewerage which is the two companies,” he added.

In 2019, Duterte ordered the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay and even issued another order to expedite the process of cleaning it.

Duterte made the statement as he vowed to name those involved in the crafting of the “onerous” water distribution agreement between the government and two private companies.

“Even if we renew the contract or not, the people should know kung sino yung mga (who were the) Filipino and I will reveal all of them, I’m just trying to finish the… I will reveal who are they so that you can ask them, including the Ayala and Pangilinan, ‘Bakit mo ginawa sa amin ‘yan (Why did you do that to us)?’” Duterte said.

“I have nothing against you personally, but you have to explain to the Filipino people why you did it… Bakit mo ginawa sa amin ‘yan? Bigyan mo ako ng sagot kung hindi, p****g i*a, babarilin ko ‘yang b***g mo (Why did you do it to us? Give me an answer because, you s– of a b—h, I will shoot you in the balls),” he added.

Duterte had ordered a review of the water concession contract between the government and the two distribution companies following the water crisis that hit Metro Manila and other areas over a year ago.

After claiming that the contract was onerous, the President ordered the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General to draft a new deal to present to the two companies.

In his Thursday’s speech, Duterte said that the two water concessionaires were free to accept or reject the new contract but said they would be facing his former spokesman Harry Roque Jr. if he decides to press charges against them.

This, as he reiterated that the government would not pay Maynilad and Manila Water over P10.8 billion as compensation for losses the water concessionaires incurred due to denied rate increases.

“We pay for their losses. And so when the bill was submitted to me, I said, you know what is this s***? Tell them there’s no f****** payment coming their way. And so I began to scrutinize the contract. And Harry is here. He’ll be one of the lawyers who’d be — you’d be facing. Maybe in court,” Duterte said.

“Because in the contract, they were the ones — the concessionaires, ‘yung distributors were allowed — were the very — the entity only allowed to authorize to increase the rates. Without the participation of any government entity, except the regulator, which was really — which is or was or the office inutile. Ganun talaga. It was inutility,” he added.

Roque, who was seated in the crowd, however, said that he had “no idea” what the President was saying. The former Palace spokesman was a human rights lawyer prior to becoming a lawmaker.

The President previously threatened to file economic sabotage and economic plunder charges against owners of the two water companies over the supposed onerous provisions in the current contracts.

On January 7, Duterte gave the two water concessionaires the choice of either accepting the new water contracts or facing the cancellation of their present deals.

However, he expressed willingness to make amends with water concessionaires if they would accept the “corrected” contracts.

“I suppose that up to now, they must already have the copies of the proposed contract, as corrected,” Duterte said in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN aired on Friday night.

“And I suppose if they are willing to accept the conditions that are being laid down there in the proposal, I think we can negotiate again,” he added.

The government is targeting the completion of the new water contracts within three to six months.

Duterte was irked by the two water firms after the Singapore-based Permanent Court of Arbitration issued separate rulings, ordering the Philippine government to pay P3.4 billion and P7.39 billion to Maynilad and Manila Water, respectively, for their supposed losses and damages.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System had revoked the extension of the water companies’ concession deals.

Reacting to Duterte’s tirades and threats, both the Pangilinan-led Maynilad and Ayala-owned Manila Water said they would no longer collect P10.8 billion in compensation that a Singapore-based arbitration court had ordered the Philippine government to pay the distributors.

The 25-year water concession agreements were signed in 1997 during the term of former president Fidel Ramos and extended in 2009 by the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo until 2037.