Duterte to water firms: ‘Give us back the money’

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday demanded private water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water to return the money paid by the public for water services, threatening anew to take over its distribution if they refused.

In a speech before newly-appointed government officials, Duterte bared that the owners of water concessionaires were “trying to reach out for a settlement” after government drafted renegotiated contracts last month for them to consider signing.

However, he lashed out at the water providers anew after emphasizing that they had been “collecting money” from the public since 1997 when the onerous contracts were first signed, but failed to provide them with enough water supply.

Reports showed that until now, some parts of Metro Manila still experience water service interruptions.

“You guys have been collecting money since 1957 (referring to 1997) to build a something…and you have not even come up with a can of clean water or a canal there,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañan Palace.

“So where is the money? Where is the money of the Filipino people?” he added.

Last month, Duterte blamed water concessionaires for the heavy pollution in Manila Bay for failing to provide proper sewerage treatment plants (STPs) which led to the water body reaching its current state.

Duterte said it does not matter if the water concessionaire owners refused to accept the government’s renegotiated contracts because he could easily nationalize the water services and prosecute them for plunder or estafa.

“Give us back the money. Give it back to the people and maybe we can talk about solving your problem. It will not be the problem of this government,” Duterte said.

“I am not afraid that there will be no water because I will just take over and nationalize water in the Philippines,” he added.

On Jan. 7, Duterte gave the two water concessionaires the choice of either accepting the renegotiated water contracts or facing the cancellation of their present deals.

However, he expressed willingness to make amends with water concessionaires if they accept the “corrected” contracts.

The government is targeting the completion of the new water contracts within three to six months.

Under the draft water contract, the national government can reject rate increases that might be imposed by Maynilad and Manila Water.

Duterte’s word war against the two water firms stemmed after a Singapore-based arbitration panel ordering the Philippine government to indemnify the two water providers for losses they suffered from an unenforced rate hike.

He said the water contracts were “onerous and disadvantageous to the people.” PNA.GOV.PH