President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night reiterated his stand not to pay Maynilad and Manila Water despite an order from a Singapore-based arbitration court for the Philippine government to pay the two water concessionaires P3.6 billion and, P7.4 billion, respectively as compensation for losses or damages.
The President made the remark as he presided over the situation briefing on the effects of Typhoon Tisoy in the Bicol region at the Legazpi City Convention Center in Legazpi City, Albay.
The President was joined in the situation briefing by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III,Agriculture Secretary William Dar, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista, Presidential Spokesmam Salvador Panelo, Senator Bong Go, among others.
“Kaya ito sabi ko yayariin ko ito sila. ‘Pag dinemanda nila tayo diyan sa se… Hindi magbayad ng seven billion. P***** i**. L**** kayo. Ipakain ko ‘yang pera sa kanila. Totoo
[That’s what I said to them. If they sue us — I won’t pay the P7 billion. I’ll make them eat the money. It’s true],” the President said.
According to the President, what he really cannot stomach is the fact that stated in the contract is that water – which is a natural resource of any country – would be treated as a commodity.
“Ang — masakit talaga ‘to. Tingnan mo, sabihin ko sa’yo masakit talaga [What’s really painful. Look, I will tell you its really painful]. And you can kill somebody for it. Ang [The] contract, the water there was not — in the contract itself — the water, a natural resource of any country — ang nakalagay doon [what stated there] it would be treated as a commodity. Itong Maynilad pati itong Manila Water, distributor ito sila. Atin ‘yang tubig [Maynilad including Manila Water, they are distributor. The water is ours].. That is part of the patrimony of the nation,” the President said.
Duterte also finds disadvantageous to the government the contract’s provision that any interruption caused by a disturbance of government and the corresponding loss that would be created out of a malfunction or whatever damage, it is the government that will pay for it.
“We — yeah, that’s the word. Any interference, that’s the word, any interference by government that would create an aberration sa kanilang ano, even if it’s a road right of way, if it’s — if I have to dig there because it is needed by the infrastructure of the country, tapos nabutas mo ‘yan, you will pay. Anak — sabi ko hindi na talaga ito — hindi ko ito masikmura.”
Moreover, the President said the two water companies can increase the price of water as they please.
Earlier, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President’s order is not to pay it due to the fact that the contracts entered into by the government with the water concessionaires is “onerous”.
Panelo made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night expressed his outrage over the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, directing the Government of the Philippines to pay Manila Water billions of pesos for the non-implementation of water rate increases that occurred prior to his assumption to the presidency.
“Hindi. Hindi, kasi onerous iyung kontrata eh. Masyadong disadvantage sa gobyerno [No because the contract is onerous. Its very disadvantegous to the government],” Panelo said.
“Alam mo merong tinatawag na mga kontratang labag sa public policy….(agreement ng bayan?) kapag iyan ay napatunayan ng hukuman iyan ay ina-annul, niri-rescind,” he added.
According to Panelo, the Singapore-based arbitration court sided with the two water concessionaires because they are allies with them.
“Eh magkakakampi ang mga iyan eh. Alam mo iyung mga may-ari nyan may mga inter-locking corporations iyan [They are allies. You know the owners have inter-locking corporations],” he said.
Panelo said the President has already ordered to have new covenants or provisions in the contracts that is not disadvantageous to the government.
At the same time, Panelo said its up to the Department of Justice (DoJ) on what cases it will file against those liable behind the contracts signed with the water concessionaires.
“Kaya sabi ni Presidente, lahat ng involve dyan, mga abogado nung kabila, abogado ng gobyerno kakasuhan ng economic sabotage pati na mga may-ari kasi kumbaga nagkaroon ng sabwatan yan [The President said all those involve, lawyers from the other side, the lawyers of the government will be charge with economic sabotage including the owners because there were connivance],” he said.
“Ang problema kasi dyan ‘yung mga pumasok sa kontrata na iyan eh mukhang hawak din nila. Iyun ‘yun eh. Otherwise, hindi papayag ang mga iyan kung interest ng bayan ang pag-uusapan,” he added.
When asked if the President can neglect or just throw away the contracts even though this was started many years ago, Panelo everything is possible.
“Lahat yan pwede. Alam mo sa Saligang Batas ang pangunahin tungkulin ng Pangulo ay pagsilbihan at proteksyunan ang taong bayan [All of that is possible. You know the Constitution the main duty of the President is to serve and protect the interest of the people and country]. So in the basis of that the President can do things that can either annul contracts that arranged or agreed against the interest of the people and against public policy,” Panelo said.
He added that the President is also looking at other contracts that might have been disadvantageous with government.
“Marami, basta lahat ng kontrata na involve public service titignan nya iyun [Many, every contract which involve public service he will look at it,” he said.
According to Panelo, if the government cannot ror has no capability of running basic services, it will look at private corporations but the provisions of the contract entered should be fair and not one sided.
“Ang nagiging problema nga ‘yung mga kumakatawan sa gobyerno hindi sa interes ng kanilang pinaglilingkuran, interes na mga kabila. Kaya ganyan ang nangyayari,” Panelo said.
Panelo said one of the provisions that the DoJ saw as disadvantageous to the government is that if the water concessionaires went bankrupt or loses money, it is stated that government will pay them.
“Alam mo ang nakita dyan talaga kasi, unang-una ‘yung kontrata, ‘yung lifetime ng kontrata nakalagay dun na pag sila ay nalugi for whatever reason eh kailangan bayaran natin sila. San ka naman nakakita ng kontrata na papasok sa negosyo na kapag nalugi ka ang magbabayad ang gobyerno?” Panelo asked.
“Pangalawa, hindi tayo pwede makialam sa rates. Eh meron tayong ahensya ng gobyerno dyan na dapat nakikialam dyan sa rates. Hindi tayo pwede dun. Kaya nung, kung hindi ako nagkakamali, nung mag-appoint ng regulator ‘yun ang sinasabi nilang labag kaya dinemanda tayo. Hindi daw tayo pwede mag interfere, biro mo yun.”
“Pangatlo, ang tubig ginawa nilang commodity hindi natural resource. Eh alam mo pag natural resource ibig sabihin ‘yung lahat ng natural resources ang intention nun eh para sa welfare, paggamit ng mga tao. In other words its impress with public character over public interest. Kaya dapat hindi pwe-pwede puro negosyo iisipin mo. Iisipin mo public service yan. Iyun ang mga nakita ng DoJ,” he said.
He said another questionable thing that was done was the extension of the contract on the 13th year of their operation.
“Hindi lang ‘yan, ang nakita ko dyan 25 years ang kontrata abay nakaka 13 years pa lang ni renew na nila, nagpaka siguro na sila para …,” he said.