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President  threatens  arrests over water  contracts


President Duterte was in a fighting mood last Tuesday. He said the two water concessionaires – Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services – have been “screwing” the Filipino people with the concession deals they signed with the government “milking” Filipinos by the billions of pesos.

They were strong words from the President who has seldom been this angry. “I will file economic saboe and I will arrest them, all of them,” he said. “I will let them experience how it’s like to go to jail…. I am sorry. I am ready to go but I won’t go without a bang. I will expose the rich who made money at the expense of the nation.”

The President spoke a few days after Manila Water, in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Friday, said that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Singapore has ordered the Philippine government to pay Manila Water P7.39 billion for four years of losses it had suffered because of the government’s breach of its obligation.

Two years earlier, the court had ordered the Philippine government to reimburse Maynilad, the other water concessionaire, P3.4 billion in revenue losses from January 1, 2013, to March 10, 2015. But the Philippine Supreme Court, last August, upheld a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) order penalizing the two concessionaires with combined fines of P1.8 billion for violating the Clean Water Act.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, former mayor of Manila and former secretary of the DENR, has long been calling on the two water concessionaires to meet their obligation to establish sewage systems for their 14 million customers – with the result that Manila Bay is so polluted with garbage and human waste that DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu has said it will take ten years to clean it up.

Atienza has charged that the two companies have been making a lot of profits – an aggregate of P138 billion from 2006 to June, 2019. Some of the profits came from the 20 percent environmental charge and 30 percent sewer charge they have been collecting from customers, he said, adding: “They should have fully invested the revenue from these chares to build sewage networks and wastewater treatment facilities.”

Last August, the Supreme Court upheld a 2009 DENR order penalizing the two concessionaires and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) P1.84 billion in combined fines and to continue to pay a daily fine of P322,102, that will escalate by 10 percent in two years, plus legal interest of 6 percent per annum.

Against all these legal decisions in the Philippines, the two concessionaires went to the Arbitral Court in Singapore which decided in their favor last week, ordered the Philippine government to pay them P7.39 billion .

President Duterte has now declared he will also file economic saboe cases against the senators who agreed with the contract. He ordered Solicitor General Jose Calida and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to draft a new contract.

But it is the President’s threat to jail officials of the water concessionaires that bears watching. The President has not always been this angry. And he is not given to making empty threats.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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