Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go lamented the unfair and unjust provisions in the concession agreements governing the water supply services in Metro Manila in a privilege speech at the Senate regular session on Monday, December 9.
This comes after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore ordered the Philippine government to pay Manila Water, one of the private concessionaires, 7.39 billion pesos for the government’s blocking of the water rate increases that Manila Water demanded in the past.
Last year, the government was also ordered to pay Maynilad 3.4 billion pesos by the same arbitral tribunal.
“I strongly believe that such a decision is not only disadvantageous to the Filipino people, it is also wrong,” Go remarked, adding that many provisions in the said agreements are “unfair and unjust to the Filipino people.”
Go then enumerated some of the unfair practices that water concessionaires engage in to make a profit, saying that the companies continue to take advantage of Filipinos.
“Wala na ngang binabayarang Corporate Income Tax ang mga concessionaires na ito dahil pinapasa na sa mga consumers, pagbabayarin pa nila ngayon ang taongbayan at ang gobyerno? Bumaba na nga ang konsumo ng tubig ng publiko, patuloy pa rin ang pag-taas nila ng presyo,” the senator said in his speech.
“Manila Water, through its ‘fixers,’ have continuously opposed several water projects that would improve our water systems. Why? So they could build their own water provider and raise prices anytime?,” he added.
“Saan naman kayo nakakita ng kumpanya na hindi pa man naisasagawa ang mismong septic tank desludging nito, nangongolekta na sila agad ng ‘environmental charge’ sa kanilang mga consumers para rito. Ano ito: pay now, service never?”, he further asked.
“Furthermore, Manila Water has yet to comply with its contractual obligation to provide for sewerage and wastewater treatment facilities in Metro Manila, which clearly constitutes a breach of the concession agreement.”
“Ginigisa nila tayo sa sarili nating mantika,” Go bemoaned.
The senator clarified, however, that he is not against businesses turning a profit, saying “I strongly believe that promoting a culture of entrepreneurship and fostering a country that is conducive for business and commerce are crucial in creating a better life for us all.”
But he stressed that “business without conscience is just greed.”
“Inuulit ko po: Ang pagnenegosyo na walang konsensya at puso ay walang pinagkaiba sa kasakiman,” Go told, urging the companies to give back to the Filipino community that made them.
“Alam ko naman na malalaking kumpanya na kayo. Marami na rin kayong naging kontribusyon sa Pilipinas. Malaki na rin ang kinita ninyo mula sa mga Pilipino. Panahon naman ngayon para ibalik ninyo sa taumbayan ang mga nai-ambag nila sa inyong negosyo. Palitan naman ninyo ng mas magandang serbisyo. Tulungan naman po ninyo ang naghihirap nating mga kababayan.”
The senator then questioned those who furnished and negotiated the contracts, saying, “Sinu-sino ba ang mga abogado at opisyal na nakaupo nang pinapa-bid at ginagawa pa ang mga kontratang ito? Bakit pinalusot ninyo at hinayaan na magkaganito? Bukod sa hindi makabayan, hindi pa makatao ang mga kontrata. Wala ba kayong mga puso?”
He added, “These contracts are not pro-people and are clearly meant to bleed money from the Filipino people.”
Proposing a way forward, the senator urged the renegotiation and rework of the agreements “to eliminate or neutralize those provisions which are unduly disadvantageous to the government and align both governmental and private interests to one common goal: public interest.”
He also urged the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the government agency that is in charge of water privatization in the country, to “explore the possibility of terminating the extension of the concessionaire agreement.”
“The President might also ask that you do this eventually,” Go told.
As for the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Office of the Solicitor General, the senator urged them “to ensure that the government protects the interest of the Filipino people.”
“Hindi natin kailangan ng mga kumpanyang pinagkakakitaan lang ang ating mamamayan,” said Go. “Protektahan natin ang karapatan at kapakanan ng ating bayan at ng ating mga kababayan.”
Ending his speech, Go reminded the public that he and President Rodrigo Duterte will always fight for their rights and welfare.
“Kasama ninyo ako at ang Pangulo. Ang importante sa amin ay ang interes ng bayan. Hindi bale magkaroon ng diperensya sa politika. Pero pag bayan na ang pinag-uusapan, ibang usapan na po ito,” Go said, adding that if the President will go down because of the issue, he will also go down with him.
“Walang problema yan, uwi na kami ng Davao. Kung sa Bisaya pa, uli nami,” he said.
“Pilipino ako and I love my country more than anything else. Hinding-hindi kami magdadalawang-isip na ipaglalaban ang karapatan ng mamamayang Pilipino at ng ating bayan.”
“Minsan lang tayo dadaan sa mundong ito, kaya gawin na natin ang tama, unahin na natin ang kapakanan ng mga kababayan nating Pilipino. Magtulungan po tayo para sa ating bansa” he ended.
The Senate Committee on Public Services joint with the Committees on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation; Ways and Means and Finance is set to hold a public hearing on the water issue as well as related proposed legislative measures on Wednesday, December 11 at 10am.