Fear in the city
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2019 - 12:00am

There is a growing number of women both local residents and foreigners who’ve asked me about the reported kidnappings of young children, a white van used in grab and snatch of kids, and the latest kidnapping in Makati that authorities suspect is POGO related. What makes things different now is that women are actually expressing fear and concern, especially expat moms who are visibly worried and fear for their safety as well as of their children. Last week while I was waiting for my Grab car to arrive, a waitress at a business hotel walked up to me and politely asked if the kidnapping of a female Chinese in Makati was true, and added that it was scary to think that you could be grabbed and snatched while waiting for a ride. The expat ladies were all married to top business executives of multinational companies so you just imagine what sort of news is going around the business community.

The real problem in all of this is the tendency of authorities to dismiss these concerns as “Fake News,” or something that should not concern “us” because we are law abiding citizens and those being kidnapped are either drug suspects or “Chinese.” Sorry but once Fear creeps into the minds of law abiding citizens then public confidence in our law enforcement authorities would clearly waver or sink into a low point. Regardless of the possibility that it’s all fake news or chismis or involves POGO employees, our law enforcement officials especially the PNP need to come out or step up with their public information campaign and statements of clarification and reassurance. Because you are so used to or desensitized by the crime and violence you’ve seen, law enforcers must constantly remind themselves NOT to be DISMISSIVE of the public’s concern. It’s bad for the business and it’s bad for the country.

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After everything is said and done; some real truth is coming out from the Water Concession controversy. It was interesting to watch the Senate investigation on the water concession agreements because we are now learning that the officials of Manila Water and Maynilad had no part in conceptualizing, writing or crafting said agreements. One ex-government resource person categorically stated that the MWSS during the time of FVR hired local and international consultants and asked for help from the World Bank and the ADB in putting together a concept and project that until then had never been done in the country. In other words, experts and professionals did the work not the concessionaires or “Oligarchs”. Another thing that was repeated and retold is the statement that the MVP-DMCI group were not the original winner and owner of the water concession. The original owner was the Lopez group (ABS-CBN) through their company Benpres. Their requests for rate hikes were rejected due to the existing financial crisis at the time and because the Lopez group had nothing to back a loan, they could not raise the needed capital to meet obligations and contractual agreements, forcing them to sell Maynilad to the DMCI-MVP tandem. In this case, Malacañang literally lined up and shot the wrong suspects. It also debunks the claim that the contracts were so one-sided because the first owners of Maynilad lost money.

Aside from the discovery that the wrong suspects were being charged in the court of public opinion, we are now realizing that MWSS interference in the business led to Maynilad folding up once. Now, the MWSS, responding to President Duterte’s righteous indignation, has decided to revoke the contract extension given to both companies. Many of us were under the impression that the unscheduled or premature extension of the concession agreements was part of a scheme or political accommodation for oligarchs. Now we learn that the real reason was the concessionaires needed to increase the price of water but the government back then did not approve of such a politically sensitive action. So they compromised by spreading out the cost – extending the contract in advance with a government guarantee. If the extension is revoked, the only way the concessionaires can carry on would be to increase prices. The question is, will the MWSS and Duterte allow the concessionaires to increase their prices? It’s important to remember that the concessionaires are dependent on loans and credit and the only way that banks and lenders will allow it is if they have some form of guarantee such as a contract or collateral that insures they can collect on the due date.

If the MWSS and Malacañang blocks the major price increase on water, not only will it result in no new loans, it is a sure thing that current creditors will start sending expressions of concern if not immediate collection notices. Regardless of whose side you are on, it is very apparent that Malacañang and the MWSS will either have to eat humble pie and work out a compromise or live with the whirlwind resulting from an extraordinary price increase on water. And let’s not be fooled by the statements of the concessionaires that they will not enforce or collect on the penalties awarded to them by the arbitral court in Singapore. Knowing corporate lawyers and governance advisers, chances are the concessionaires will simply collect on another day when President Duterte is no longer in power and shouting distance. Yes they can collect and claim that the reason they waited two and a half years later is because they were under duress and the evidence is all “on tape” and “in print”.

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After all is said and done, we have a serious problem at the Bureau of Customs because the PDEA, PNP and the NMIS or National Meat Inspection Service are still intercepting kilo upon kilo of illegal drugs, and illegal meat products from China. But what is Malacañang doing about the matter? Congratulations to our law enforcers and regulators, but who is reprimanding or punishing people at the BOC?

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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