House to probe deals with Maynilad, Manila Water

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 9) — The House of Representatives will be probing the concession agreements between the government and the two companies that distributes water to Metro Manila consumers and industries.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Monday that the lower chamber will hold a hearing Tuesday on the 22-year-old contracts with Manila Water and Maynilad that the government considers to be “onerous.”

“We will also have a hearing, tungkol sa tubig at 'yung mga kontrata sa tubig at hoping po na ma-resolve ito, ma-renegotiate 'yung mga kontrata but at the same time masigurado na hindi magkaroon ng water crisis, hindi magkaroon ng kakulangan ng tubig,” Cayetano said in a Facebook Live video.

[Translation: We will also have a hearing about the water supply and the water contracts and we’re hoping this will be resolved and renegotiated, but at the same time we can assure that there won’t be a water crisis, there won’t be a water shortage.]

Reps. Arlene Brosas, Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, Eufemia Cullamat, France Castro, Sarah Elago and David Suarez have filed resolutions seeking a review of concession agreemeents with Manila Water and Maynilad which are supposedly disadvantageous to the government.

“It is still a common reality for the common Filipino to experience water supply rotational cut-offs due to insufficient water supply and water coverage albeit high charges for a water connection,” Suarez said in House Resolution No. 569.

For Brosas, Zarate, Gaite, Cullamat, Castro and Elago said the concession agreements “provide private concessionaires a cloak of impunity for failed water supply service under an event of force majeure, which upon determination and confirmation of the MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System) absolves them from the obligations stipulated in the agreement.”

The government is currently reviewing the concession agreements after a Singapore-based tribunal backed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration demanded that the Philippine government pay Manila Water ₱7.4 billion for rejecting water rate hikes in 2015 when the contracts provided that the government cannot interfere in rate setting.

The ruling came almost three years after a tribunal also favored Maynilad in a similar case, where the government was ordered to pay ₱3.4 billion.

Duterte has since repeatedly lashed out at the water firms, threatening to sue them for “economic plunder” and refusing to pay damages. His spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, said the government will appeal the ruling with the Supreme Court of Singapore.

In a fresh rant against the water companies, Duterte said Monday that he wants to meet with all the people involved in the creation of the concession agreements and would want Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Noel Clement to bring an M16 rifle to the meeting so he can kill them off.

Panelo said Maynilad and Manila Water officials have agreed to negotiate the supposedly onerous deals with the government, but talks on this would have to take a backseat as the government has yet to form a team which will craft an initial version of the refined concession agreement.