Duterte sorry, but water contract reviews to continue

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Duterte sorry, but water contract reviews to continue
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte updates the nation on the government's efforts in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on March 30, 2020.
Presidential Photo / King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte may have apologized for the “harsh words” against them, but tycoons Manuel V. Pangilinan and the Zobel brothers would still see their water deals reviewed, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

“The review will proceed to its conclusion notwithstanding the president’s apology,” Guevarra told Philstar.com in a text message late Tuesday.

At present, the government is still awaiting “inputs” from “experts” at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Manila-based multilateral lender, regarding contracts unilaterally drafted by the government.

Guevarra did not say when the new contracts for Ayala-led Manila Water Company Inc. and Pangilinan-owned Maynilad Water Services Inc. would be finalized and released. The finance department, which communicates with ADB on the contracts, did not respond to queries.

The two water concessionaires hold existing contracts to distribute water in Metro Manila and neighboring areas until 2037 before the Duterte administration unilaterally cancelled the extension given them last 2008. 

As a result, their present contracts will only last until 2022, just before President Duterte steps down from office.

Companies are awaiting word on the new contracts until Duterte’s sentiments toward their owners Pangilinan and brothers Fernando and Jaime Zobel de Ayala turned soft because of their support on the pandemic response last Monday. 

This prompted the chief executive to say sorry and even open himself to negotiations with the tycoons.

So far, that indication of openness from Duterte had not been followed by concrete actions. Since then, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had only gone as far as saying that Duterte is open to “explore” and “out-of-court settlement” with the tycoons. However, there is currently no court case pending involving the two.

For their part, Pangilinan and the Zobel brothers thanked the president for his “kindness” while saying they would continue to work with the government on fighting the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

On Wednesday, listed Manila Water shares closed at P11.96 apiece, up from P11.72 apiece on Tuesday and just P10.46 last Monday.


Editor's Note: Manuel V. Pangilinan is the CEO of PLDT. A unit under PLDT's media conglomerate has a majority stake in Philstar Global Corp., which runs Philstar.com. This article was independently produced following editorial guidelines.





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