President Rodrigo Duterte says he is willing to negotiate with water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad if they accept the “corrected” contracts offered by the government.
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“I suppose if they are willing to accept the conditions that are being laid down there in the proposal, I think we can negotiate again, Duterte told ABS-CBN Friday night.
But Senator Francis Pangilinan said threatening investors with imprisonment should they refuse to accept a government-imposed contract is criminal behavior under the Revised Penal Code.
“Coming as it does from the highest office of the land sends the terrible signal to all investors whether foreign or local that they too can be imprisoned without bail should they disagree with the powers that be,” said Pangilinan, who is also president of the Liberal Party.
The opposition leader also urged the country’s economic team to manage and correct the harm inflicted on the country’s investment climate brought about by reckless and irresponsible public pronouncements.
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The Justice department and the Office of the Solicitor General have been drafting a water concession contract without the “onerous” provisions that angered the President.
Should the two firms reject the new contract, the President said, he would order a government takeover of the water services in Metro Manila and other areas under the watch of Manila Water and Maynilad.
The two water firms have vowed to cooperate with the government to revise their contracts after the President repeatedly assailed them.
On Dec. 10 last year, the executives of Manila Water and Maynilad wrote to the President expressing their willingness to sit down with government officials to resolve the issue.
READ: Duterte vows to ‘correct’ all government contracts
Amid fears of reduced investment due to his verbal attacks against the water firms, Duterte said he did not mind losing the confidence of business groups.
“You thought they will be getting out of the Philippines? Fine, go out, be my guest. I will not be intimidated or even fear the possibility of reduced investment in this country, he said.
“What I am after is justice for the Filipino people. For all I care, they can all withdraw, but I still need to maintain a matter of dignity for us.
Duterte also vowed to “correct” all government contracts with private firms before his term expires in 2022 for the benefit of the public.
“All contracts that are prejudicial to the Filipino people will be corrected. You can count on that, within the limited time left for me in office, I will correct everything, including contracts that are not in the best interest of the Filipino people, Duterte said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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