Guevarra belies Kiko Pangilinan’s remark on new water concession deals

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday took exception to opposition Sen. Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan’s remark that forcing water concessionaires and their investors to accept a government-imposed contract is punishable under the penal laws.

“These proposed new contracts will not be absolutely imposed upon the water concessionaires as they will be given a reasonable opportunity to comment on the proposed amendments in an open and public discussion of the issues,” Guevarra said in a statement.

On the contrary, Guevarra pointed out that these proposed new contracts, which intend to remove the onerous provisions, would” provide a more stable and comfortable environment for investors.”

” It is the government officials and officers of the water concessionaires who crafted, entered into, and implemented these highly disadvantageous contracts, not the investors, who were threatened by Presideny Duterte with possible criminal prosecution,” he said.

Just the other day, Pangilinan disclosed that forcing investors to accept a contract drawn up by the government is a crime.

Also Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, warned that President Duterte’s imposition, particularly on Maynilad and Manila Water, to accept new concession agreements drawn up by government lawyers will only drive away investments that create jobs.

“Threatening investors with imprisonment should they refuse to accept a government-imposed contract is criminal behavior under our Revised Penal Code,” he said.

“Coming as it does from the highest office of the land sends the terrible signal to all investors whether foreign or local that they too can be imprisoned without bail should they disagree with the powers that be,” Pangilinan continued.

Earlier, Guevarra disclosed that the draft new contract with water concessionaires Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. may be available in six months.

Guevarra disclosed that the Justice Department, Office of the Solicitor General, and Office of the Government Corporate Counsel review team would still be needing inputs from the Department of Finance over the economic and financial provisions of the draft contract.

“We are really leaving it to the Department of Finance to fill in certain inputs pertaining to financial matters and economic issues pertaining to the reformation or adjustment of this new water concession agreement,” Guevarra said.

But Guevarra assured the concessionaires that they will be given ample opportunity by the government to scrutinize and renegotiate the new agreement.

“There will be a process of discussion and renegotiation. It’s not a 100-percent take it or leave it thing. We are reasonable in so far as this matter is concerned,” Guevarra .

Last month, Guevarra said the government could lose billions of pesos to Maynilad and Manila Water because of two disadvantageous provisions in its 22-year-old agreements with the said water concessionaires.

Guevarra issued the statement as a Singapore-based arbitration panel ordered the government to pay Manila Water P7.39 billion in years’ worth of losses due to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System’s reduction of water rates instead of an approval of their proposed rate hikes, while Maynilad was awarded a P3.424-billion reimbursement in 2017.

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