Amidst the growing climate of animosity right now regarding the water concession issue of the country, President Rodtrigo Duterte warned that he can suspend the privilege to Writ of Habeas Corpus so he can send any one, especially billionaires, “who commit economic sabotage” to jail. This is in connection to the threats by the two water magnates, Manila Water and Maynilad, to increase the water rate as a response to the cancellation of the contract to extend the agreement on water concession.
“I will order the Armed Forces to operate your water… then I will declare a suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus but only against economic saboteurs.”
Regarding this declaration, the two moguls still has no answer but according to their previous statement, they are willing to talk with the government to settle this issue. According to them, they are ready to negotiate for the solutions to the problem.
In connection to this, during his presence at the birthday of former senator Manny Villar, another billionaire tycoon who owns the Prime Water Corporation, a water supplier for some parts of the country for over 30 years, the President said:
“You see? These people are afraid. I said I’m not talking. You go to Salamat. General Salamat of the MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System). You can talk, you take care of it. Me, I will just prepare the charges. If we don’t agree with this, economic plunder!”
It all started when the president questioned why the extension contract (up to 2037) for these two water companies has been already approved when their current contract will only yet to end on 2022. So the contract was cancelled by MWSS. According to the presidential spokesperson, Salvador Panelo:
“We recall that they offer not to implement the approved new water rates. The president is a lawyer and a public prosecutor for many years, hence, knowledgeable of the provisions of the anti-graft law. The agreements violated every prohibited act of the law.”
Malacanang palace also released the letters from these two companies. The letter from Manila Water, signed by its chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala, states that:
“We will not collect the Php 7.39 billion arbitral award.”
“We will defer the implementation of the approved water charge increase.”
“We have agreed to and started discussions on the provisions that will be re-negotiated.”
Meanwhile, the letter from Maynilad, signed by Chairman of the Board Manny Pangilinan and its CEO Ramoncito Fernandez, states that:
“Maynilad wishes to assure His Excellency of its willingness to cooperate with MWSS relative to HE’s Directive to have certain provisions of the Concession Agreement reviewed and amended.”