President Rodrigo Duterte called on water concessionaires on Tuesday to “stop making it hard for the people” and help government address the water crisis in Metro Manila.
READ: ‘Extraordinary powers’ for Duterte vs. water crisis
This, as Malacañang said he might declare a national emergency and take over Maynilad and Manila Water in a bid to address the water shortage in Metro Manila and its nearby provinces.
“All of them, stop making it hard for the people there because it’s a question of survival of the nation, water,” Duterte told ABS-CBN News in an interview.
“I do not want to be the bully but if it comes to that, then it should be. We cannot do anything since our people need water,” he added.
Scheduled rotational water interruptions have been implemented by water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water to manage dwindling supply from the Angat and Ipo dams.
Maynilad handles of the west concession zone while Manila Water operations serve the east concession zone of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said the takeover plan is constitutional.
“The provision of the Constitution is very clear—the President’s primary duty as the head of state of the government is to serve and to protect the people,” he said.
“So in any situation arising that will endanger, imperil the safety of the people, then the President has to take over,” he added.
A provision in the 1987 Constitution also states that in times of a national emergency, the government can temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest.
He said that Duterte will invoke this power if the current water crisis worsens and “we won’t have water to drink.”
Panelo also said the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System could face charges if found to be in violation of the law.
“If they have violated the law, they will be prosecuted,” he said, adding that a revamp at the water regulator is possible.
In March, President Duterte threatened to scrap the concession agreements of water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad after millions of their customers were left waterless.
For at least a week, its 1.2 million customers had no water supply or low water pressure due to low water levels at the La Mesa reservoir in Quezon City because of the dry spell.
Duterte also warned MWSS officials that they would get fired if he was not satisfied with their actions to address the water shortage.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said Congress may delegate to the President the power of the state to take over the operation of public utilities, particularly water services, amid a looming water crisis in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Lacson, however, noted that the President must declare an emergency first before Congress could delegate such power to him.
“Given a looming if not already existing water crisis, under Sec. 17, Art VII of the 1987 Constitution and existing jurisprudence (David vs Arroyo, GR No 171396 on May 3, 2006), Congress may delegate to the President the power of the state to take over the operation of public utilities,” Lacson said.
Lacson’s statement came after President Duterte said he is considering the use of “extraordinary powers of the presidency” to speed up the construction of the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam project to prevent another water crisis in Metro Manila.
“I will use the extraordinary powers of the presidency. I could not just allow people to go about without water even for drinking,” the President said Monday.
Duterte said despite opposition by groups, which claimed that the construction of the Kaliwa Dam would displace indigenous peoples (IPs), he felt it would benefit more people.
The President said the government could easily place “safeguards” for the land and people that may be affected by the construction of the China-funded dam.
“It might create some danger and damage but that is not my concern. My concern is the welfare. The greatest good for the greatest number. That is democracy,” he added. With PNA