Palace: Duterte has ordered filing of economic sabotage raps vs those behind “onerous” water contracts

(Eagle News)–The Palace on Wednesday, Dec. 3, said President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the filing of criminal, civil and administrative charges against all those involved in the 1997 water concessionaire agreements.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said facing economic sabotage charges, among others, for the “onerous” contracts between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, and Manila Water and Maynilad were the firms’ owners  and legal counsels, and agents and lawyers of the government at that time.

“It is apparent that some members of the government have not only looked the other way, but have in fact purposely guided the hands of those who have raped our economy for their own personal aggrandizement,” Panelo said.

According to Panelo, “worse, they are hell-bent on bleeding our country dry.”

“The proper delivery of basic services has not been fostered but thwarted to the outrageous detriment of the Filipinos,” Panelo said.

Panelo said the Duterte administration took issue in particular with the extension of the 1997 contracts until 2037 even when they were supposed to lapse in 2022.

He said also onerous was the clause that prohibited the government from setting water rates and the clause that directed the state to indemnify the water concessionaires should they incur losses  after the state interferes in the implementation of agreed-upon water rates.

“A review of the agreements with the Manila Water and Maynilad reveals that they are contrary to public policy and public interest, the same being onerous and disadvantageous to the people, relative the terms or periods, government non-interference, as well as concessionaire indemnification for losses,” Panelo said.

According to Panelo,  Maynilad and Manila Water “not only abused the arrangement of delivering and distributing the state-owned water to the citizens but have treated the same as a commodity and a money making venture, instead of considering it as a public service.”

“Those who impede or derail the constitutional directive to the President to serve and protect the people shall find themselves behind bars with free food and lodging,” he said.

Earlier, an arbitration court in Singapore ruled that the Philippine government should pay Manila Water P7.39 billion for the concessionaire’s losses from June 1, 2015 to November 22, and the amounts paid to the PCA and 85% of other claimed costs.

Manila Water had sought the intervention of the court after the government stopped it from raising tariffs, hence the losses.

After news of the arbitral award broke out, Duterte vowed to take to court those behind the contracts in a speech early this week.

In a statement on Wednesday, Manila Water said the arbitral award stems from breaches made by previous administrations, not Duterte’s.