Water utilities dropped P10.8-B claim to start talks with gov't: officials

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2019 11:25 AM | Updated as of Dec 11 2019 02:52 PM

A woman and her baby are surrounded by water meters in Manila. The Philippine capital's 2 distributors said they dropped their compensation claim for fresh talks with government. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA -- The Philippine capital's 2 water distributors told a congressional hearing on Wednesday that they were dropping their combined P10.8-billion in compensation claims to pave the way for a discussion with government on their concession agreements.

With its current staffing of 100, the state-run Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System cannot ensure water supply in the capital without its concessionaires, Manila Water Co and Maynilad Water Services Inc, said MWSS deputy administrator for engineering Leonor Cleofas, in response to a question.

"We would like a starting point to come up with a workable solution to work with government," said Maynilad president and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez.

As early as 2017 when the Singapore-based arbitration court ordered Manila to compensate Maynilad by P3.4 billion, its chairman, Manuel Pangilinan signaled that the company was "willing to start with a clean slate."

Fernandez said Maynilad had been "acting in good faith" based on the concession agreement with MWSS. The deal was forged in the late 1990s by the Ramos government.

Manila Water board member Antonio Aquino said the company sought out Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez as soon as the same arbitration court ordered a P7.4 billion payment to the Ayala-owned utility. The company wants to look for a "workable solution," Aquino said.

Duterte said Tuesday he would "expropriate everything" from the Philippine capital's 2 water distributors unless he is satisfied with their explanation of their concession agreements.

The week before, he said the public was "milked by billions" due to the compensation order.

Duterte wants to "renegotiate" some provisions of the government's concession agreement with Manila Water and Maynilad, and the government will "resist" paying P10.8 billion in compensation, justice department spokesman Markk Perete said Tuesday.