The government and Ayala-led Manila Water have signed a new concession agreement following negotiations triggered by President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong criticism of the existing deal due to alleged onerous provisions.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed the development on Wednesday.
“I was informed that the signatures were completed today. MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System) signed for the government,” he said.
Guevarra declined to disclose the key features of the deal for now, although he previously said the government’s objective was to remove the unfair terms “without making the concession less economically viable.”
After Manila Water, the government’s water concession review panel will try to get a similar deal with Maynilad.
“The panel will start discussions with Maynilad after the Holy Week,” Guevarra said.
Manila Water lauded the signing of a new concession deal.
“We are grateful that the review of the Concession Agreement has been concluded and that the revised Concession Agreement has already been signed between Manila Water and the government,” Manila Water spokesperson Jeric Sevilla said.
“This is a significant milestone as we are now able to continue implementing our Service Improvement Plan that will ensure sustainability of water supply as well as improve wastewater and sanitation services for our customers in the East Zone service area of the MWSS,” Sevilla said, adding that Manila Water looks “forward to continuously deliver the quality service we have been providing to our customers.”
The 1997 concession agreements came under scrutiny after Manila Water and Maynilad won in separate multi-billion peso arbitration cases abroad, infuriating Duterte.
He protested on several occasions in 2019 a clause in the concession agreements that holds the government liable if it interferes with the implementation of water rates and accountable to indemnify the companies for losses incurred.
He also threatened to arrest the owners of the water firms for alleged economic sabotage.
The two water companies later decided not to demand payment amid Duterte’s tirades against them.
Manila Water provides water and wastewater services to the eastern part of Metro Manila, particularly the cities of Mandaluyong, San Juan, Pasig, Marikina, Taguig, the municipality of Pateros, and portions of Makati, Manila and Quezon City, as well as the province of Rizal.
Maynilad, meanwhile, currently serves customers in the cities of Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Malabon, Manila, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Quezon, Valenzuela.
It also services certain areas in Cavite such as the cities of Bacoor, Cavite, and Imus, as well as the towns of Kawit, Noveleta and Rosario.
The existing contracts will expire in 2022. — with Ted Cordero/RSJ, GMA News