The country’s two biggest water concessionaires announced Tuesday, December 10, that they are no longer seeking to collect more than P10 billion in compensation claims from the government after President Rodrigo Duterte accused them of economic sabotage and threatened to jail them.
“We are willing to cooperate and negotiate with the government, and we will not implement as well the rate increases come January 2020. We will also coordinate with the leadership of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS),” said Jose Rene Almendras, president and chief executive officer of the Ayala Group’s Manila Water at the joint hearing of the House committees on good government and on public accountability.
“We’ll follow the wishes of the President, we’re responding to the call of President Duterte,” he added in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Maynilad chief executive officer Ramoncito Fernandez said they came to the decision of abandoning their arbitral claim following Duterte’s announcement that he would not honor it.
“When we were ignored, we did not insist. We’re no longer pursuing the award,” Fernandez said in Filipino.
Last month, an arbitral court in Singapore ordered the Philippine government to pay Manila Water P7.4 billion in indemnification for the refusal of the regulator, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), to allow the water concessionaire to raise water rates over the past several years.
The same tribunal also ordered the government to reimburse Maynilad P3.4 billion for losses from March 2015 to August 2016 in July 2017.
The officials of the two water firms also said they were willing to cooperate with the government in striking a new deal, without the “onerous” provisions as well as defer rate increases scheduled for next month.
“We are OK to defer it, we just need to resolve what exactly needs to be done. We need to talk with MWSS,” Almendras said.
“That supposed increase is a result – because there are projects that we need to do. We submitted projects and MWSS approved it and we were given ways to recover what we spent,” he added.
Duterte, for his part, still insists on pursuing action against Manila Water and Maynilad despite being aware of the water firms dropping their compensation claims.
He said Tuesday that he might take over the water distribution and treatment operations in Metro Manila should he be unsatisfied with the firms’ explanation of the contracts.