PACC to probe water deals
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has enlisted the help of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) in the investigation of the contracts given to the country’s two water concessionaires, which the Chief Executive had denounced for being disadvantageous to the public.
KONFRONTASI - - PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica pledged to help assist the President in the investigation “come hell or high water.”
“Sabi po ng Pangulo sa akin, tulungan ko daw po sya sa labang ito. And I will do it 100 percent without reservations, dahil tama po s’ya, niloloko po tayo at pinagnanakawan sa mga kayamanan na bigay ng Diyos sa tao. Ang labang ito ay para sa Pilipino (The President asked me to help him in this fight. He is right, we are being robbed of our natural wealth given by God,” Belgica said.
“Water and land are God-given resources. It should not be fully controlled by any man, business or government at the detriment of the people. They can ask payment for the services they render. But we cannot allow businessmen to hold our waters or natural resources hostage. Hindi kanila ‘yan. Wala pa tayo sa mundo, may tubig at lupa na. Tapos ngayon hawak nila at bibenta satin at gagawin nilang commodity ang tubig na libre binigay ng Diyos sa tao (That’s not theirs. Water has always been there. Now they want to control it and sell it to us, water given by God to man),” he added.
“We will look at this and help stop this greed that controlled our country for decades,” Belgica said.
The President has threatened to file charges against those who were involved in the drawing of the water agreements with Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. He ordered the Department of Justice to draft new agreements that are favorable to the state.
Belgica said he would look into the contracts and submit recommendations to the President.
“Control awarded to service providers such as Manila Water and Maynilad is not absolute and should not be used against the interest of the Filipino people,” he added.
Malacañang said on Thursday that the President could still rescind the “onerous” concession agreements signed between the government and the two water companies.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo stressed that Duterte has the Constitutional power to “annul or rescind” any contract that is “against the interest of the people and public policy.”
“Lahat ‘yan pwede. Actually, ‘yung batas, ang pangunahing tungkulin ng Pangulo ay pagsilbihan at proteksyunan ang taumbayan (All of these are possible. Under the law, the President’s main duty is to serve and protect the public),” Panelo said in a radio interview.
“So, on the basis of that, the President can do things that can either annul [or] rescind contracts done or arranged or agreed against the interest of the people and against public policy,” he added.
The President recently announced plans to sue and jail the persons behind the 1997 contracts after a Singapore-based arbitration court directed the government to pay billions of pesos to the two water companies for losses over disapproved rate adjustments.
Panelo said the Duterte administration was bent on filing criminal, civil and administrative charges against the owners of two water companies and their cohorts in government.
“Under the Constitution, all natural resources of the Philippines, including water, belong to — and are owned by — the State. It is indisputable that water is intended for the use, enjoyment and welfare of the citizens,” he said.
Manila Water is a subsidiary of Ayala Corp., while businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments Corp. owns a controlling stake in Maynilad.
The two companies distribute water in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Meanwhile, Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera said the water concessionaires failed to meet some of the terms of agreement in the contract.
“No one monitors their compliance,” the lawmaker said.
She urged the government to review the performance of the two water distributors before the contract extends.
Herrera said in 2004, Manila Water and Maynilad formed a technical working group that dismissed the Commission on Audit, saying they should not be audited because they were acting only as “agents.”
The lawmaker pushed for the creation of the Water Regulatory Commission that will regulate the functions of all water bodies in the government.(Jft/TheManilaTimes)