MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has no plans of paying Ayala-led Manila Water the P7.39 billion the government owes based on a recent decision of an arbitration court.
"'Pag dinemanda nila tayo – hindi ako magbayad ng P7 billion, letse ka. Pakainin ko 'yung pera sa kanila," Duterte said on Thursday, December 5.
(If they sue us – I won't pay the P7 billion, you idiot. I'll make them eat the money.)
Instead of compliance to the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, the Chief Executive served up threats and a no-holds-barred verbal attack on Manila Water and its owners.
He made these remarks during a situation briefing on Typhoon Tisoy in Legazpi City, Albay. But what was supposed to be just a meeting about government's response to the calamity turned into another rant session against Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services, the two water concessionaires serving Metro Manila, Rizal, and Cavite.
Since Monday, December 2, Duterte has been seething over Manila Water's victory against the government in a case it filed with the arbitration court over the non-implementation of water rate hikes starting in 2015. It's because of this ruling that the Duterte government is being ordered to pay P7.39 billion.
Two years ago, Maynilad won a similar case, with the government made to pay P3 billion.
Over the two cases, Duterte has threatened some of the richest Filipino businessmen, the Ayalas and Manny Pangilinan. Manila Water is a subsidiary of Ayala Corporation while Pangilinan's Metro Pacific Investments Corporation has a controlling stake in Maynilad.
'Loss of sovereignty, economic plunder'
Duterte again slammed the concession agreements entered into by the government with Manila Water and Maynilad. This time, he said the deals are tantamount to the country giving up its sovereignty over its water resources.
"We lost our sovereignty. We bargained it away," the President said.
He claimed the concession agreements allow the two private firms full control over the water it distributes to consumers while allowing them to impose unfair rates and prevent government from intervening.
He accused Manila Water and Maynilad of committing "economic plunder."
"This is a classic case of economic plunder. Wala lang nakasilip dito (But no one was able to look into this). I can only assume money really talks," Duterte said.
He demanded that Ayala Corporation pay the government what Manila Water "owes" the people.
"Putang inang letseng Ayala, isauli nila 'yan, bigyan ko sila 48 hours today. 'Pag 'di nila sinauli, pupuntahan ko sila sa opisina," said Duterte.
(That son of a bitch, fool Ayala, they should return it. I'll give them 48 hours today. If they don't return it, I'll pay their office a visit.)
He promised to "pursue this if this is the only thing I can achieve in this administration."
The Department of Justice has been reviewing the concession agreements, concluding that a dozen of its provisions are onerous and put the consuming public and government at a disadvantage.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.