Robredo backs review of deals with water firms
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo backed Sunday the review of the deals between the government and water concessionaires but warned that “careless decisions’ on the part of the Duterte administration might drive away investors.
“Yes, it should be done — especially now that it appears the agreements have onerous provisions,” Robredo, speaking in Filipino, said in “BISErbisyong LENI,” he weekly program aired AM radio station DZXL, when asked about agreements with Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc.
“But for me, there are calmer ways of doing it. If we deal with this issue calmly there will be a lot of collateral damage,” she went on.
Robredo cited the estimated P127-billion drop in some of the conglomerate’s shares in the stock market after President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the water firms.
According to her, the state-run Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System, both of which have investments in the water firms’ parent conglomerates might be affected.
“Secondly, what message is the government sending to investors when it makes rash decisions? Our foreign direct investments have been low even before. And if investors see that the deals with the government have no assurance, will they be enticed to invest here?” she added.
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System earlier revoked the extension of concession agreements of Manila Water and Maynilad after both firms drew the ire of Duterte following Manila Water’s arbitration win versus the government in November.
The Vice President also questioned why the Duterte administration pushed for the renegotiation just now that Manila Water had won its case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore. The court also compelled the government to pay Manila Water P7.4 billion.
“This government is now on its third and a half year. I’m sure that, when they assumed office in the middle of 2016, they already knew about the arbitration case,” she pointed out. “So the question is: Why did they wait for the decision to come out? Why did they not take steps ahead in 2016?”
Maynilad won a similar case in 2017. Both water firms said they would no longer collect the almost P11 billion indemnification from the government.
This came after Duterte threatened to sue the two concessionaires following Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s report that the contracts awarded to them contained some “onerous provisions.”
Both concessionaires agreed to review and renegotiate the contracts.