The Duterte administration is now aiming to finish a revision of the water concession contract before 2019 ends. This drafting of new version will eliminate provisions that president Duterte found onerous and clearly not in favor to the interest of the government and the general public. Aside from its problematic extension grant which was already deemed valid until 2037 when in legality the 1997 agreement was set to expire in 2022, President Duterte, along with the Justice department, discovered that there are dozens more burdensome provisions in the contract, then signed by president Fidel V. Ramos during his term and then extended by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2009.
One particular example that is very worrying is the proscription of the government from interfering with the price-setting and from insurances in case of possible losses. Prohibiting the government from meddling would allow these two giant distributors take advantage on the consumer. This is one of the main reasons why the contract is being scrutinized right now. However, it was also thought that this is president Duterte’s clever response to the penalties (P10.8 billion) that Manila Water and Maynilad wanted to collect from the government.
Regarding the crafting of the new water concession agreement, Justice Sec. Menardo I. Guevarra said:
“We are still forming our team that will come up with the government version of the water concessionaire agreements. We hope to be able to come up with the revised version of a water concession agreement that has not include the onerous provisions… before the year is over”.
Economic sabotage and economic plunder
In further speeches, President Duterte threatened the 2 giant water conglomerates about the different ways his government can take over the water supply. Aside from stating that he can order the Armed Forces of the Philippines to manage the water operation if these corporations do not cooperate, he also said he can suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus for these billionaires so he can send them to jail for economic plunder and sabotage. Strangely enough, on another occasion President Duterte also stated that he can create a “revolutionary government” to deal with the problem if things get worst.
Fidel Ramos, as a president who signed the 1997 concession agreement and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as the president during its extension in the year 2009, might possibly face charges of graft as “conspirators” of the onerous concession agreement that the president wants to reform. Regarding this issue, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said:
“If they (Ramos and Arroyo) are part of the conspiracy, they can be sued. If they are not, they cannot be charged”.
Meanwhile, regarding the president’s warnings to these 2 giant tycoons, Randy Estrellado, the chief operating officer of Maynilad said last week:
“We understand where they’re coming from and we are willing to sit down and look at the concession…We are fairly confident that we did nothing wrong.”