Duterte threatens Consunjis after comments on water concession agreements

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, January 10, took aim at property developer DM Consunji, saying it should focus on its "problem" of supposedly poorly-built buildings rather than commenting on the government's latest spat with water concessionaires.

"Noong isang araw nagsalita about concession sa water. Sabi ko ikaw – may problema ka. Unahin mo 'yung problema mo sa tao. Kung builder ka, Consunji ka man o hindi, 'pag naasar ako sa iyo, I will not grant you any permit to dig," Duterte said.

(The other day they spoke about water concessionaires. I said you – you have a problem. Focus on your problem with people. If you're a builder, Consunji or not, if I'm irked by you, I will not grant you any permit to dig.)

Duterte made the remarks during a speech at the ceremonial distribution of agricultural assistance to farmers in Pigcawayan, Cotabato. In his speech, Duterte claimed construction magnate DM Consunji Incorporated's (DMCI) buildings, unlike others in Davao City, had "huge cracks."

"Ang may problema dito sa Pilipinas ngayon 'yung mga mayaman. Lahat ng condo niya – apat – 'yung isa bumagsak. Sa karaming building sa Davao, kanya lang ang maraming crack. Huge cracks, hindi 'yung hairline," he said. 

(Those who have problems now in the Philippines are the rich. All their condos – [they have] 4 – one collapsed. Of all the buildings in Davao, only [Consunji's] had a lot of cracks. Huge cracks, not just hairline.)

Duterte was referring to the DMCI-owned condominium Ecoland 4000, which saw its Himeji building collapse following a magnitude 6.5 earthquake that struck Davao City last October 2019.

What comment? DMCI Holdings Inc chairman and Maynilad vice chair Isidro Consunji had earlier spoke out about Duterte's latest rant against Maynilad and Manila Water. The President doubled down on threats of a government takeover if the firms do not accept new contracts drafted on his terms.

Duterte earlier amped up his attacks against the water concessionaires, saying the firms' contracts with government drafted in 1997 supposedly has "onerous provisions."

"I don't know where the President is coming from because we participated in the bid.... It was government who drafted the contract... It (contract) was passed through NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority), passed through DOJ (Department of Justice)," Consunji is quoted as saying in a BusinessWorld report.

Duterte's beef with Manila Water and Maynilad started with the water shortage in March 2019, which prompted him to order a review of the firms' agreements with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.

Duterte has since offered the firms new deals, though the companies have yet to respond to it. Experts earlier warned Duterte's actions could spook business and investors looking to enter into government agreements, emphasizing that the government's respect for the validity of contracts it enters into is an important factor in building investor confidence. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.