By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Members of the Senate had nothing to do with the drafting of the two Metro Manila water concession deals that President Duterte flagged as disadvantageous to the government, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Wednesday.
A furious Duterte on Tuesday threatened to charge senators for alleged economic sabotage for supposedly approving onerous provisions in the 1997 concession agreements with Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Company Inc.
He vowed to expose the lawmakers who allegedly participated in coming up with the contracts.
But Recto said senators were not involved in the crafting of the provisions of the government’s agreements with the water concessionaires or any other public utilities.
“Senators were not part of crafting any agreement then and now,” he said in text message to the Manila Bulletin when sought to comment on the President’s pronouncements.
Public service and utility companies shall secure congressional franchise before they are granted necessary permits by concerned agencies to be able to operate in the country. Franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives and undergo legislative process before it is signed by the President.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, believed that “it was not the context of his (Duterte’s) talk.”
In a separate message, Sotto said he already spoke to the Chief Executive who supposedly clarified to him that the Chief Executive only meant that senators “are being taken for a ride” by the two Metro Manila water distributors.
For this, he has committed to support Duterte’s fight against the onerous concessions.
“After hearing his explanation last night on how we are being taken for a ride by these concessionaires, I told him I’m supporting him 100 percent on the issue,” Sotto said.
Sen. Imee Marcos also backed the President, saying that the agreements violate human rights.
“Water is universally recognized as a human right, not merely a commodity. I support PRRD’s desire to assail these onerous contract that deprive Filipinos of both their right to water, as well as impose liabilities upon [Philippine] government even when service and supply fails,” she said.
For his part, Sen. Francis Tolentino said he understands Duterte’s anger as Filipinos were supposedly put in disadvantage by Maynilad and Manila Water.
“The President is always on the side of the people… and that’s part of his constitutional duty,” he said in a media forum in Manila also Wednesday.
Tolentino said the Senate could conduct a review of the government’s contracts with Maynilad and Manila Water.
The agreements of the regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System with the two water companies contained provisions prohibiting government interference in rate-setting and providing for indemnity in case of such interference.
Recently, an arbitration court in Singapore asked the Philippine government to pay Maynilad P3.6 billion and Manila Water P7.4 billion over losses due to the disapproved rate increase.