Justice Usec. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar inhibits from review of water contracts

(Eagle News) — Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar on Friday, Dec. 13, formally inhibited from any review and renegotiation of the government’s water concession contracts with Manila Water and Maynilad.

Aglipay-Villar, the wife of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, announced her inhibition through a memorandum for Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who had asked her to inhibit.

“To eliminate any cloud of doubt on the impartiality of the Department’s review and renegotiation of the water concession agreements with the (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System) that my affinity to the owners of PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp. has brought, I am inhibiting from any involvement in the Department’s review and renegotiation of the said agreements,” she said.

The family of Aglipay-Villar’s husband owns PrimeWater, which was being touted as a replacement of Maynilad and Manila Water after the MWSS revoked the extension of their contracts up to 2037.

The MWSS did this after the Department of Justice, which President Rodrigo Duterte had tasked to review the contracts amid the water shortage in March, found “onerous” provisions in the pacts.

These provisions include one that bans the government from setting water rates, and another that specifies the government should indemnify the water concessionaires for losses incurred in the event of such an intervention.

The DOJ said the extension of the contracts way before they were set to lapse in 2022 was also “irregular.”

Manila Water and Maynilad have expressed willingness to renegotiate the provisions, but the Palace said President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to accept or refuse the offer.

Duterte has also refused to pay Manila Water and Maynilad around P11 billion in supposed losses, ordered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, citing the “onerous” contracts in the first place.

The two water concessionaires said they would no longer pursue the arbitral award, but Duterte has vowed to charge those behind the contracts which he said were not in the public interest.