AFTER Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water Co. Inc. threatened to increase water rates by 100 percent following the cancellation of their concession agreements’ extension, Malacañang reminded the water firms that President Rodrigo Duterte has all the legal options at his disposal to address the issue.
“These concessionaires can do their worst and continue with fleecing the consumers while the President will do his best in serving and protecting the interest of the people,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement yesterday.
The President made a sterner warning. He said he would send the military to take over water service operations and even throw in jail the owners of Maynilad and Manila Water. He said he would like to see the “billionaires” behind bars.
Officials of Manila Water and Maynilad had warned that water rates may increase by over 100 percent after the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) canceled the 15-year extension of their concessions.
The agreements would end in 2037, but due to the revocation, these will now expire in 2022.
Panelo noted that the water concessionaires, in separate letters to Duterte, offered not to implement the approved new water rates after the President publicly denounced the “onerous” provisions of the 1997 water deal.
Duterte is still studying the issue and has yet to accept or decline the water firms’ offer, according to Panelo.
“All legal options are open to him,” Panelo stressed.
“It must be remembered that the President is a lawyer and a public prosecutor for many years hence knowledgeable on the provisions of the anti-graft law. An examination of the latter reveals that the contracts are on all fours with it. Stated differently, the agreements violate every prohibited act of the law.”
Panelo claimed that Duterte “will not renege from his constitutional duty of enforcing the law.”
“Neither will he be swayed or enticed into accepting a compromise. Dura lex sed lex (The law is harsh, but it is the law),” he said.
“Water is a natural resource and access to it by the people is a basic human right, and constitutionally protected as well. Any measure therefore in derogation of this right requires government intervention.”