Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said on Thursday, December 12, that the decision of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to cancel the extension of contracts of water concessionaires should not be a reason to increase water rates.
“Huwag ninyong gawing dahilan ‘yang pagkansela ng concession agreement para itaas ang water (rate),” Go said, addressing the officials of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co.
“Nangako sila sa ating Pangulo na hindi na sila sisingil doon sa arbitral ruling at ni-waive na raw nila. Hindi sila mag-i-increase sa January. So bakit ninyo tinatakot ang Pangulo at ang taongbayan na tataas kayo ng singil dahil po sa pagkansela?” the Senator added.
MWSS, the government agency that is in charge of water privatization in Metro Manila, decided to revoke on December 5 its board resolution to extend the contracts of Maynilad and Manila Water until 2037.
The 25-year concession agreements were signed in 1997 and were set to expire in 2022. In 2009, MWSS decided to extend the contract with Manila Water for fifteen years more. The following year, Maynilad’s agreement was also extended for another fifteen years.
The companies drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte when a water shortage occurred in March and when the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Singapore ordered the Philippine government in November to pay ₱7.39 billion to Manila Water for the company’s alleged losses due to the government’s decisions to stop water price hikes. In a similar case in 2016, the PCA ordered the Philippine government to pay Maynilad P3.4 billion.
The President lashed out anew against the companies in a speech on Monday, December 9. He threatened to charge their officials with economic sabotage and ordered the relevant government agencies to revise the “onerous” agreements. In response, Maynilad and Manila Water decided to waive the awards by the PCA and cancel the rate increases that are scheduled for implementation in January 2020.
However, when MWSS informed the two companies on Wednesday, December 11, of its decision to cancel its board resolution extending the contracts, an official of Manila Water hinted at the hearing of the House of Representatives of a possible water rate hike for the company to recoup its investments within the shortened period.
Go said that the companies must focus first on meeting their obligations. “Di po makakatulong ‘yung takutin ang taongbayan. Ayusin niyo muna ang serbisyo ninyo. ‘Yun po ang inaantay ng mga mamamayan natin—maayos na serbisyo, walang water shortage, walang water interruption.”
He added that the President wants clear answers regarding the original agreements. “Interesado rin po ang Pangulo kung bakit nakalusot noong unang panahon ‘yung kontratang nilagdaan, ‘yung concessionaires agreement na hindi naman po pabor sa Pilipino.”
The Senator uttered the statements in an interview at the national headquarters of the Bureau of Fire Protection, where he earlier attended the agency’s 46th Fire Service Recognition Day as guest of honor.
“Gusto naming nakalagay sa kontrata na interes ng bawat Pilipino ang mangunguna dahil kung gaano kaimportante ang tubig sa kanila, ganoon din po kaimportante sa kanila ang bawat pisong pinagpawisan nila na ibinabayad po diyan sa tubig,” the Senator also said.