Duterte threatens to reveal individuals behind 'onerous' water deal

MANILA, Philippines – Saying the public deserved a fair water concession agreement, President Rodrigo Duterte amped up his threats against Maynilad and Manila Water, warning he would reveal the identities of those involved in crafting supposedly "onerous" provisions in their current government contracts.

Duterte made the statement in a speech at the 120-year presence of the Baptist Churches in the Philippines on Thursday, January 16, while talking about the difficulty of rehabilitating Manila Bay due to the lack of sewage lines which the firms were supposed to put up in line with the Clean Water Act.

Before issuing the threat, Duterte said Maynilad and Manila Water officials "have to explain to the Filipino people" why they failed to put up adequate sewage systems and provide water concession agreements more favorable to the public.

"Putangina (Son of a bitch) that's what pisses me off. Why? Because the violations contained in the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act are all there...I said even if we renew the contract or not, the people should know kung sino (who).... I will reveal all of them, I'm just trying to finish the – I will reveal who they [are] so you can ask them, including the Ayalas and Pangilinan, bakit mo ginawa sa amin yan? (Why did you do that to us?)" Duterte said.

"Bigyan mo ako ng sagot. Putangina, pag hindi babarilin ko yung bayag mo putangina," he added. (GIve me an answer. Son of a bitch, if not, I'll shoot you in the balls, son of a bitch.)

Waiting game: Duterte's renewed threats against the Ayalas and businessman Manny Pangilinan are the latest in his showdown with the private concessionaires. He recently offered the companies new deals crafted on the government's terms while doubling down on threats of a takeover should they refuse. (READ: Legally yes, realistically no: Duterte's powers to take over water operations)

Manila Water is a subsidiary of Ayala Corporation. Pangilinan's Metro Pacific Investments Corporation owns a controlling stake in the other water concessionaire, Maynilad Water Services.

Since then, Duterte has lashed out at Maynilad and Manila Water in several speeches, using their case as an example of "going after big fish."

Both Maynilad and Manila Water have yet to respond to Duterte' proposition. Should they accept the new deals, the two companies still face the risk of possible criminal prosecution as Malacañang claimed there was no guarantee they would spared for crafting original deals the government claimed to be a "colossal rip-off."

"They're having sleepless nights. You would notice you can hardly hear a whimper from them and every time then – even Ayala would [do] the unthinkable of writing an apology and signing it. I have nothing against you personally but you have to explain to the Filipino people why you did it," Duterte said.

What prompted the threats? 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 then stepped up his attack against the companies after Manila Water's victory over the Philippine government at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore. The court ordered the government to pay Manila Water P7.39 billion for losses it incurred since 2015. This was on top of the P3 billion the government owed Maynilad, also for the delayed implementation of rate hikes since 2017.

Maynilad and Manila Water have since conceded the claims to losses, saying they would no longer demand payments from the government. This has failed to appease Duterte. – 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.

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