OSG to “exhaust all available legal remedies” vs arbitral award in favor of Manila Water

(Eagle News)– The Office of the Solicitor General on Friday, Dec. 6, said it would exhaust “all available legal remedies” against the decision issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore that ordered the Philippine government to indemnify Manila Water for losses it supposedly incurred due to the state’s refusal to implement higher water rates.

In a statement, the OSG said that while “the OSG respects its obligation to keep confidential the arbitration proceedings, the OSG cannot just simply stand by and watch Manila Water spin the circumstances and paint itself as an exemplary, outstanding company.”

“Our next steps will show that the arbitral award was not, to quote Manila Water, due to a ‘procedural lapse’ by government. It is a company’s refusal to become the subject of a legitimate regulation,” the OSG said

The OSG said “a provision in a contract which is contrary to law and public policy is void,” noting that this was a “time-honored principle.”

“No other than our Supreme Court has ruled that public utilities are imbued with public interest. Corporations that provide basic commodities, like water, must submit itself to government regulation, lest it resort to abusive profiteering to the detriment of the Filipino people,” the OSG said.

The water concessionaire then, the OSG said,  “cannot hide within the confines of the Concession Agreement and escape its obligation to the People.”

The OSG also criticized what Manila Water said was its billions worth of investment in infrastructure.

“.. We can only ask what the millions of Manila Water customers have been asking and complaining of for the past year: if indeed billions went to investing in water infrastructure, then why is the public suffering from one of Manila’s worst water shortages for the past year?” the OSG asked.

“Public interest and welfare shall always prevail…Rest assured, we will not allow corporate greed to triumph without a fight,” it added.