Friday, September 25, 2020

Gov’t Wants To Take Up New Water Deals With ‘Clean Slate’ By 2022

Gov’t Wants To Take Up New Water Deals With ‘Clean Slate’ By 2022

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Amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to craft a new and acceptable water concession contract, the government has no plan of taking embattled firms Manila Water and Maynilad “out of the picture,” the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) said.

MWSS administrator Emmanuel Salamat explained that Duterte’s move was only meant to ensure that the government will enter into a fresh water deal with Manila Water and Maynilad “with a clean slate” by 2022.

“We are really working closely with the two concessionaires and explaining to them that the contract agreement still exists,” Salamat said in a Virtual Presser organized by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

“We never know what will come but we hope that this is not to take out of the picture the two concessionaires but to ensure that we will start a clean slate by 2022 with a new contract agreement,” he added.

In December last year, the MWSS announced that it has revoked the resolution extending by 15 years the 25-year concession agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad signed in 1997 during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos.

The two water firms’ operation ceases in 2022 after the MWSS revoked the resolution signed in 2009 during the watch of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which extended the deals until 2037.

Duterte has been lambasting the two water concessionaires after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore issued separate rulings, ordering the Philippine government to pay PHP3.4 billion and PHP7.39 billion to Maynilad and Manila Water, respectively, due to alleged losses and damages suffered by the two water firms.

He has repeatedly claimed that the government’s concession agreements with the two water concessionaires contain “onerous” provisions that are disadvantageous to the public and the entire country.

The President has likewise ordered the filing of appropriate criminal, civil, and administrative charges against the owners and legal counsels of Manila Water and Maynilad, as well as the agents and lawyers of the governments involved in the crafting of the water concession deals.

‘Permanent’ water deals

On Jan. 7, Duterte said Manila Water and Maynilad only have the option to either accept the new water contracts or face cancellation of their present deals.

Duterte on Jan. 17 also emphasized that it would be “better” if the two water companies just accept the new contracts.

Salamat said the government only sought to have “permanent” water concession agreements sans onerous provisions with Manila Water and Maynilad.

He stressed that Duterte wanted a new water contract to ensure that the government will not be put at a disadvantage.

On the part of the MWSS, it suggested that the new water deals should have an “acceptable provision” that will allow both the government and the two concessionaires to “efficiently and prudently” work together, Salamat said.

“The President is particular on starting a new contract by 2022. So the concession agreement will last until 2022,” he said.

“It’s important that in the new agreement after 2022, we will start a new contract without the onerous provision. So I think that’s essentially the intent of revising the contract,” he added. (PNA)

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