"‘An unjust contract is no contract at all.’"
Seems they’re finally giving in.
Yesterday, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System announced it was revoking the resolution which accorded an extension to the concession agreements it had entered into with Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. to 2037 from 2022.
This came a day after both Manila Water and Maynilad bared they are no longer pursuing the almost P11 billion that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore had asked the Philippine government to pay them.
Obviously, it was President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough stance which had softened them.
However, revoking their 15-year extension and waiving the P11-billion fine (which should not be honored anyway), is still far from exacting justice from these concessionaires, which for the longest time had been duping the Filipino people.
In her privilege speech last Monday, Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera, or simply BH, decried the agreement the government had entered into with Maynilad and Manila Waters, claiming they were “bursting with provisions of numerous illegalities and excessive misinterpretations all to the detriment of the Filipino people,” starting with the term used to describe both Maynilad and Manila Water—concessionaires or agents of MWSS.
According to BH, to consider the concessionaires as mere agents of MWSS is by all means farcical as they are in fact public utilities.
“For those who insist on their status as agents of MWSS, you are responsible for allowing these companies to pass on ‘business expenses’ and corporate income taxes that they should rightfully be paying, all to the consumers. These include the outlandish and ridiculous provisions in the concession agreements to pass on to the consumers all legal and arbitration expenses,” BH said.
In 2018 alone, BH bared that both Maynilad and Manila Water sought to pass on to the consumers by increasing rates to cover corporate expenses such as donations, travel expenses, sports expenses, legal and arbitration fees, and corporate income taxes.
Through this same “agency treatment,” BH said these companies have abused the system even further, determining that the maximum 12-percent limit rate of return imposed on public utilities do not apply to them as they are “mere agents.”
But not only that. According to BH, the government has bent over backward in favor of these companies as the so-called “innovation” of the MWSS Regulatory Office, in its interpretation of the Concession Agreement, allowed the concessionaires to collect fees via the water tariff capital investment plans and programs that have not yet been implemented or have already been abandoned.
They were allowed to bill consumers for projects that to this day have yet to be fully implemented. To name only a few: (a) The Wawa Dam Project (P732 million); (b) The Laguna Lake Project (P100 million); (c) The Laiban Dam Project (P45.3 billion); (d) The Pinugay Sewerage Treatment Project (P600 million and overpriced); (e) The Angat Water Reliability Projects (P5.4 billion); and, (f) The Earthquake Contingency Project (P4.130 billion).
For the above-mentioned projects alone, a total of P56.26 billion have been billed in advance from the Filipino people, BH bared.
But the question is, according to BH, where are these projects today?
“Why is it that the benefits from these haven’t been felt by the people? How is it that this year alone, our own people suffered from a massive systematic water shortage that disrupted the national capital region?” BH asks.
So, you think Maynilad and Manila Water are being generous when they decided to waive the P11-billion fine they were to collect from the government? Hell, no!
They still have the P56 billion they have already collected from us. And they still have their savings from the non-payment of taxes.
They have charged us for their various business expenses, and for projects some of which are already abandoned or yet to be fully implemented.
These issues should not be allowed to rest with the simple revocation of their extension and the waiver for the fine. The agreement should reviewed, amended, and if necessary, revoked in its entirety.
As BH declared in the opening of her speech, “an unjust contract is no contract at all.” That clearly applies to the agreement the government had entered into with both Maynilad and Manila Water.