Guevarra: Gov’t to come up with non-onerous water pact

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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday disclosed the government would come up with its own version of the water agreement with concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water “without the onerous provisions.”

“We’ll come up with a government version of the concession agreement
So we’ll hopefully come up with a revised version of the water concession agreement that does not include the onerous and what is considered illegal provisions.”

“Hopefully before the year is over we can have one,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

Once the government version is complete, Guevarra disclosed that they would sit down with Maynila and Manila Water to discuss the matter.

“Once we are ready with out own version of what a good water concession agreement should be that’s the time we will sit down with the water concessionaires,” he said.

Guevarra added that a composite team of both of lawyers from the Office of the Solicitor General, Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, Department of Finance, and the Department of Justice would work together to craft the government version of the pact.

“the agreement itself marami namang okay na provisions it’s just a matter of weeding out yung mga provisions which can be considered as onerous or highly disadvantageous,” Guevarra said.

Recently Guevarra revealed that President Duterte has asked the DOJ to come up with an “integrated solution” on the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System’s (MWSS) 1997 concession agreements with Maynilad and Manila Water.

Guevarra issued the statement after a Singapore-based arbitration panel ordered the government to pay Manila Water P7.39 billion in years’ worth of losses due to the MWSS’ reduction of water rates instead of an approval of their proposed rate hikes. On the other hand, Maynilad scored an order for a P3.424-billion reimbursement in 2017.

“Our legal remedies are not mutually exclusive. The OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) is contemplating of judicial remedies here and/or abroad. Some members of the Cabinet want an overhaul of the existing concession agreements. Others are thinking of more drastic actions. PRRD has asked the DOJ to come up with an integrated solution. (That) we’ll do,” Guevarra said.

Guevarra reiterated that the government stands to lose billions of pesos to Maynilad and Manila Water because of two “disadvantageous” provisions in its 22-year-old agreements with the two water concessionaires.

Guevarra said these two provisions were the reason why the government was ordered by the arbitration court in to pay the water concessionaires hefty amount.

These are also the “most notable” among a dozen provisions that the DOJ deemed “onerous or disadvantageous to the government and the consuming public” when it reviewed the agreements upon orders by President Rodrigo Duterte, Guevarra said.

Guevarra said Duterte ordered the review at the height of the water crisis earlier this year, but that the matter was not discussed by the Cabinet until last November and again on Monday night for updates.

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