On Friday (December 13), Malacañang palace slammed the two water barons Maynilad and Manila Water as a respond to their statement that they will increase the water rates by 100 percent in relation to the cancellation of the extension of the water concession agreements. Salvador Panelo, the presidential spokesperson, reminded the concessionaires that they agreed not to increase the water rates following the denouncement of President Duterte on the onerous provisions of the 1997 contract. Panelo also said that the government is considering their offer regarding the revisit and amendment of these deals.
Standing firm on his statement to not talk with the spokesperson of these two water giants, he also threatened a military takeover of their operations if they continue to browbeat the government about refusing to supply water. During his speech at the birthday celebration of his “good friend”, the former Senator and billionaire Manny Villar, President Duterte said to the media:
“I was talking to the PSG last night. I told them don’t play with me and don’t threathen me that you will not supply water. So, then I will order the Armed Forces to operate the water…”
Regarding this statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the President may be referring to Section 17 Article 12 of the constitution which says:
“The state may temporarily takeover any privately owned public utility or business in times of national emergency and when public interest requires.”
Duterte also warned that he can suspend the “writ of habeas corpus” so the government can arrest economic saboteurs. Regarding this, the President stated:
“When you fool me, when you fool the Filipinos, I will suspend the writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you. I want to see billionaires go to jail. They say, all these years, how many presidents, where’s the big fish? OK here are the two crocodiles!”
Meanwhile, Senator Cynthia VIllar, the wife of former Senator Manny Villar, made a statement against the suspicion that the presence of the President entails “politics” regarding this issue, meaning that the President plans to favor Prime Water in taking over the water management.
“It’s just a speculation. Their friendship is beyond politics. There is no discussion about it. It’s just a visit to a friend during his (Manny Villar) birthday.”
In addition, Spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied the allegation that President Duterte is favoring his allies:
“It’s a total nonsense. There’s no such thing as ally with the president. He just mentioned that the record is good but it doesn’t mean he will replace it.”