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‘Where is the money?’

The President, following the tirades unleashed against the water firms, said the cited business tried to reach out to the government in hopes of arriving at a settlement and see how this develops.

Francis Wakefield

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Give back the money and maybe we can talk in solving your problem.

This was the message sent out by President Rodrigo Duterte to water concessionaires Manila Water Company Services and Maynilad Water Services Inc. due allegedly to onerous contracts they entered into with the government more than 20 years ago and considered greatly disadvantageous to the Filipino people.

In a speech delivered during the oathtaking of new government officials at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang Palace Thursday afternoon, the President again lambasted the water firms for alleged greed that has brought hardship to consumers.

The President, following the tirades unleashed against the water firms, said the cited business tried to reach out to the government in hopes of arriving at a settlement and see how this develops.

But the President acknowledged having been incensed: “Just imagine, in 1997 they were already collecting money from the people to build a — what is this for? To give us a potable water or something that even now has not been delivered, with the money already taken,” he said in disbelief.

This relates to the fee charged by Maynilad and Manila Water to consumers ostensibly for the enhancement of the environment.

“In 1997 they were already collecting the money. It’s in your bill if you care to look at it. And it is there that you guys have been collecting money since 1997 to build a something of — and you have not even come up with a can of clean water or a canal there. That’s the trouble,” the President said.

“So where is the money? Where is the money of the Filipino people? Where is the money of the average Filipino who is hardly able to pay, who pays for his water bill and has to because (otherwise the water supply) will be cut off (and) give him a headache all day.”

The President reiterated this was what he wanted the water utilities companies to explain — where all that money went.

Iyan ang gusto kong malaman. Saan ang pera na ‘yan? (That is what I want to know. Where is that money?) Give us back the money. Give it back to the people and maybe we can talk about solving your problem. It will not be the problem of this government,” he added.

The President likewise said he is not afraid that there will an interruption in the delivery of water to consumers because he has the option to nationalize the services required if it comes to that.
He broadly hinted that managing the water companies may be given to retired military personnel “who may take over.”

“Most of the generals who have retired are here. You go there and fix the (problem),” he said of Maynilad and Manila Water whom he said are ‘distributors’ and yet they come out 10 times, 20 times richer.”

This was also why the water concessionaires wanted to meet with him and his decision to rebuff the proposal.

President Duterte previously tasked government lawyers to present the new contracts the government has crafted to help solve the water crisis and break the legal deadlock with the Manila Water and Maynilad occasioned by allegedly onerous deals with past administrations.

The Chief Executive also warned the water concessionaries against seeking temporary reprieve by obtaining a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the issuance of a new water contract without those alleged onerous provisions.

The Chief Executive said should the water concessionaires try to reject the new water contracts by going to the courts, or even file cases against him, then the situation could get ugly.

The President also said he might even do a Marcos and arrest people at night just to stress his point.

“And do not force my hand into it. You will issue TROs to pin me down. I tell you will not like what will happen. So, don’t force me,” Duterte said.

In a separate development, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said that he has no plans to vie for the country’s highest government seat as he branded Mr. Duterte’s remarks Thursday night as a joke.

“You know the President likes to make jokes. He speaks very lively. But allow me to clarify, I have no plan or ambition to run for President,” said Go.

Speaking before newly-appointed government officials in Malacañang Thursday, Duterte reiterated that he would retire from politics but implied that Go might pursue the presidency.

“Do not nurture a personal loyalty to me. I don’t need it and I cannot run anymore…I’m out of it, it’s up to you to stay except Bong Go. Maybe he wants to be President because he is in all the fire scenes,” Duterte said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Go, in response, said that the presidency is God-given and not something to aspire for.

He recounted Duterte’s path to the presidency, saying that he was elected because he is the kind of leader the people needed.

 

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