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Villar denies Duterte aiming for her family to take over water services

Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday denied that President Rodrigo Duterte is building up her family to take over the job of supplying water to Metro Manila from two water concessionaires.

Villar said that Duterte was just praising her husband Manny—a billionaire and a former Senate President—for his hard-earned wealth, comparing him to the owners of Manila Water and Maynilad.

“Kasi si Manny kasama niya before when he was a congressman. Siguro nakita niya ‘yong lifestyle ni Manny, natutuwa siya. Saka remember si Manny hindi niya minana ‘yung kanyang kabuhayan. Pinundar niya ‘yun on his own,” the senator told reporters.

“Siguro sinasabi niya na siya [Manny], pinaghirapan niya ‘yung kayang kabuhayan. Whereas, ‘yung Manila Water minana ‘yan, ilang generation sila. ‘Yung kay Pangilinan galing sa Indonesia, mayaman sila,” she added.

Manila Water is owned by the Ayalas, while businessman Manny V. Pangilinan's Metro Pacific Investments Corporation has a controlling stake in Maynilad.

'Bahala sila'

However, asked if her family's PrimeWater Infrastructure Corporation will vie for a concession agreement with the government once the present concessionaires' contracts expire, Villar said she does not know.

“‘Di ko alam. Any business pinag-aaralan ‘yan at kung sino ang nagma-manage ‘yun ang mag-aaral. Ba’t ako naman ang mag-aaral para sa kanila e senador ako, pagbutihan ko na lang maging senador at bahala sila sa buhay nila,” she said.

Villar said PrimeWater is currently led by her son Paolo.

She further said that PrimeWater has no advantage over other water companies, but also said they do not enter into "onerous" contracts. 

“Wala naman kaming advantage except that hindi kami gumagawa ng onerous contracts,” she said.

In a speech in Malacañang earlier this month, Duterte accused the concessionaires of making billions of pesos from their customers while treating water as a commodity instead of a public service.

Duterte, however, praised the Villars.

“Villar started his housing at the sweat of his brow. Tumanda si Villar diyan sa trabaho na ‘yan, including Mrs. [Cynthia] Villar the senator. Hirap ‘yang kanila,” he said. — BM, GMA News