DOJ to continue review of concession pacts despite water firms’ claims they would no longer ask gov’t to pay

(Eagle News) — The Department of Justice has said it would continue to review the concession agreements entered into by the government with Maynilad and Manila Water, even if their respective officials have said they would no longer ask the state to pay them P11 billion in supposed losses, as ordered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore.

According to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, the issue of paying the arbitral award “is not as important as ensuring that disputes arising from burdensome provisions of the water concession agreements will never happen again in the future.”

“Although the president has said that the government will not pay these arbitral awards, at least during his term anyway, this gracious manifestation on the part of the water concessionaires nonetheless removes a potential liability from the books of account of the government,” he said.

“This is a very positive development,” Guevarra said.

Earlier, the court in Singapore ordered the Philippine government to pay P3.4 billion and P7.4 billion to Maynilad and Manila Water for supposed losses they incurred due to the state’s refusal to implement water hikes they proposed.

Among the provisions in the contracts the DOJ said were onerous were the one on indemnification and the ban imposed on government to settle water rates.

The DOJ said the extension of the contracts  way before it was set to lapse in 2037 was also irregular.

It was during the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability when Manila Water president and CEO Jose Almendras and Maynilad president and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez said their respective companies are no longer pursuing their arbitral win.

“Opo, susunod kami sa kagustuhan ng gobyerno at ng Pangulo,” Almendras had said.

“Ngayong humantong na tayo dito, nire-reiterate namin na sang-ayon kami sa direktiba ng Presidente na huwag na naming habulin ‘yung historical arbitral award namin,” Fernandez had said for his part.