By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte warned Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. not to threaten him with potential water shortage lest he would be forced to order the military to take over water distribution operations.
He issued the warning on Thursday as he also threatened to suspend the privilege of writ of habeas corpus to effect arrest on persons behind what he described as onerous concession agreement.
“Sabi ko sa kanila… huwag mo akong laruan na takut-takutin ninyo ako na sige, magsibat kami, bahala wala kayong tubig. I will order the Armed Forces to operate your water. Sige, sundalo, take over kayo (I told them, don’t toy with me and scare me that you will leave us without water. I will order the Armed Forces to operate your water. I’ll tell the solders to take over),” he said during the inauguration of the Tent at Vista Global South in Las Piñas last Thursday.
“Then, I will declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus but only against economic saboteurs,” he said. “Pag niloko niyo ako, kapag niloko niyo ang Pilipino (If you deceive me, deceive the Filipinos), I will suspend the writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you. Gusto kong makita ang mga bilyonaryo na nakakulong (I want to see billionaires in jail),” he said.
Outraged by the alleged irregular water deals, the President threatened anew to file charges against the persons involved in the 25-year concession contracts sealed in 1997 for economic plunder.
Duterte claimed that the two water firms are more than just “big fishes” caught by the government’s net. “Sabi niyo (You say) all these years, how many presidents, where’s the big fish? Oh, eto buwya na ito pu*****nang to, dalawa (Ok, here are the two son of a b*tch crocodiles),” he said.
He said the two companies are now running scared and offering to settle the issue with the government following his outburst over the water deals.
“Sabi ko, kita mo takot ang mga yawa. Offer dito, we will not collect (I said, look at these devils running scared, offering ‘we will not collect)…. Ako, I’ll just prepare the charges. Kapag hindi tayo nagka-intindihan dito, economic plunder (I’ll just prepare the economic plunder charges if we don’t reach an understanding). Economic plunder there is no bail,” he said.
Duterte said both Ayala and Pangilinan should “better start to pray” as he deplored the alleged irregular provisions in the water concession contracts.
“Ayala, pati si Panginilian, do you think, naku. You better start to pray. Alam mo si Digong abogado (To Ayala and Pangilinan, do you think? Before being the President, I am a Filipino and I was financed by my mother and father,)” Duterte said.
“Itong si Ayala at si Pangilinan, water boy lang natin yan. T*** i** nila. Ang trabaho nila taga-deliver lang ng tubig (Ayala and Pangilinan are just our water boys. Son of a b*tch. Their only job is to deliver water),” he said.
Under the contracts, Duterte lamented that the government “surrendered” the right to regulate water rate adjustments and is required to pay indemnity in case of such interference.
Recently, the two water companies offered to revisit the contracts for possible amendments as well as drop their compensation claims ordered by an arbitration court in Singapore. The offer was made through letters sent by tycoons Manny Pangilinan for Maynilad and Fernando Zobel de Ayala for Manila Water to the President. The President, however, opted to study the matter before taking the next course of action, according to the Palace.
Earlier, a furious Duterte deplored the two water companies’ alleged onerous concession agreements with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, saying the country surrendered its sovereignty in the deals.
Among the provisions found irregular by the President were the prohibition against government interference in rate-setting and indemnities for losses in case of such state interference.
Duterte also criticized the extension of the contracts to 2037 that was granted several years before concession agreement expires in 2022.
No taxes paid
He likewise said the two water concessionaires have not paid their income taxes and, instead, passed the burden to their customers and focused on earning profits.
Duterte was also furious that the water firms were demanding environmental fees from customers without building sufficient water treatment facilities as required by law.
“Instead of paying the tax, tayo ang pinagbayad. Tayo ang kinukunan ng pera. So kukunin talaga natin sa kanila ‘yan because it is an immoral contract (Instead of paying the tax, we are the ones being charged. They get the money from us so we will really receive the money from them),” he said.
“Yung corporate income tax nila will be passed on to the consumers. Bale, wala silang bayad. Ang magbayad yung consumers (The corporate income tax will be passed on to the consumers. They don’t pay. The consumers are the ones paying),” he added.
Duterte also pressed the two companies to return the money collected from customers over failure to establish wastewater treatment facilities as required by law.
“The water treatment that they promised that would be built dyan sa Harrison. And that started, that was collected 1997 when these contracts started to end up in 2037,” he said.
“By this time, sir bilyon na iyon. Tapos baka lahat-lahat trillion. Wala na sila. Ibalik nila yung binayad nila, yung kinuha nila (By this time that will be billions, maybe even trillions. They will go bust. They should return the money they got from us),” he said.
Duterte also alleged the two companies have unfairly passed on to customers the expenses of repairing their facilities. “That’s supposed to be their expense. But they only want profits,” he said.
The Supreme Court recently imposed a fine amounting to almost P2 billion on the two water concessionaires for violation of the county’s Clean Water Act. The companies were accused of failure to put up sufficient sewerage treatment facilities in violation of the law.
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