Water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad are no longer seeking to collect the combined nearly PHP11 billion (US$ 216.8 million) they’re owed by the Duterte government, despite both companies winning suits seeking compensation for losses at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore.
The two companies informed the government of their decision during a House of Representatives hearing today, with Maynilad President Ramoncito Fernandez saying that they have long stopped demanding that the government pay them the damages they’re entitled to, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports. Manila Water also added that it will no longer hike water rates in January 2020, while Maynilad said it is open to postponing indefinitely the implementation of new rates, Rappler reports.
The companies’ newly chastened stance comes after President Rodrigo Duterte last week lashed out at them in public speeches, accusing them of “screwing” the country, and saying that the contracts that the government signed with them back in 1997 were onerous. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also maintained that the extension of the contracts with both companies up to 2037 had been anomalous.
The Department of Justice had said that Duterte had insisted that he would “resist” paying the billions owed to the two water concessionaires, ABS-CBN News reported.
Justice Secretary Guevarra told reporters today that the concessionaires’ decision to abandon their claims was “a very positive development.”
“Although the president has said that the government will not pay these arbitral awards, at least during his term anyway, this gracious manifestation on the part of the water concessionaires nonetheless removes a potential liability from the books of account of the government,” he added.
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) said that it has formed a technical panel that will review the concession agreement, and both Manila Water and Maynilad will sit down with that panel.
The MWSS is the government agency in charge of the privatization of water distribution in Metro Manila and is mandated to monitor concession agreements.
The Singapore court had ordered the Philippine government to pay the Ayala family-owned Manila Water PHP7.4 billion (US$144 million) to compensate it for losses that the company suffered between June 2015 and November 2019. In 2018, the government was similarly ordered to pay Maynilad PHP3.4 billion (US$66.5 million) by the same court because it had refused to allow the company to increase prices from 2013 to 2017.