By Raymund Antonio
That the country’s two biggest water concessionaires are not pursuing their compensation claims of close to P11 billion from the government is a win for the Filipino people, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Thursday.
“Kung hindi na sila sisingil (If they no longer seek to collect), that is to the benefit of the public. Kasi ganoon naman eh: iyong pera ng gobyerno, pera iyong ng taumbayan (Because the money of the government is the money of the people),” Robredo, who is the opposition leader, told reporters in Marawi City.
The Vice President said the decisions of both Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. to drop their claims gives the Filipino people an advantage despite the international arbitration court ruling.
“Kasi nag-start lang naman ito (This only started) because of the decision of the arbitration body na magbayad (to pay). Pero nanggaling na sa kanila (But it came from them that), despite the decision of the arbitral body, na hindi na sila sisingil (they won’t collect). So ano iyon (So that is an), advantage for all of us,” she said.
A recent Singapore arbitration body ruling awarded about P11 billion in compensation to Manila Water and Maynilad for losses they suffered between June 2015 to November 2019 after the Philippine government refused to let the two companies implement their separate water rate hikes during the period.
This drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte who threatened to imprison and even charge with economic sabotage those who crafted the deals, which the Justice department claimed contained “onerous” provisions.
But at a hearing in the House of Representatives, Manila Water president Jose Rene Almendras and Maynilad president Ramoncito Fernandez said they will no longer implement the arbitration ruling. They also agreed to cooperate with the government in striking a new deal.
To further appease Duterte, the water concessionaires will also defer the water rate adjustment planned for January 2020.