Duterte can’t cancel contracts

Perhaps out of his frustration, President Rodrigo Duterte has said many things about the two water concessionaires in Metro Manila—Manila Water and Maynilad. In fact, he said the two were economic saboteurs and plunderers.

Duterte even threatened to cancel their concession agreements. But can he do it unilaterally and arbitrarily? That’s the crux of the problem.

Duterte is a lawyer and as such he must realize that our country is governed by the rule of law and due process. This means that the sanctity and the inviolability of contracts must be preserved. There are always processes to be followed. He cannot cancel contracts, period.

The President and even ordinary water consumers have a right to file in court cases against Manila Water and Maynilad and ask that their concession agreements be declared null and void, or be modified because they are onerous and against public policy.

As suggested by legal experts, if Manila Water goes to court to challenge a Singapore arbitration court’s decision refusing to compel the government to grant increased water rates, that would be a good opportunity to also contest the concession agreements entered into by the Ramos administration in 1996.

My gulay, there is a process provided by the law to contest the concession agreement! The President cannot just “declare war” on the Ayalas and MVP.

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In the wake of the rants and curses against Manila Water and Maynilad, there is now speculation that the Villars might enter the picture after they got into the water business. I wonder how much of this is true. The President should just keep quiet and allow the rule of law to take its course. Duterte can always declare an emergency situation, but that has to go through Congress.

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In the wake of the declaration of war, the opposition is making a mountain out of a molehill about the Villars. They say Duterte has embraced cronyism in having favored businessmen corner government contracts.

There is no doubt the Villars are close to the President. Instead, the Villars’ son, Mark, is now the secretary of Public Works and Highways.

But I don’t quite see the Villars as Duterte cronies. Despite the fact that Mark is a member of the Cabinet, the Villars acquired their wealth through sheer hard work. I have always admired the Villars for their “sipag at tyaga” they have developed over they years. They are pioneers in low-cost and socialized housing. They are true examples of the Filipino’s pioneering spirit. They got rich certainly not because of any presidential connections!

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I do not find it surprising that the latest Social Weather Stations Survey found that no less than 78 percent of Filipinos see US-PH ties as more important than our ties with China. Another survey says that more than half of Filipinos believe it is possible to have relationships with both China and the US at the same time.

These surveys coincide with earlier surveys that Filipinos continue to distrust China, and that they are worried about the growing number of Chinese coming to the Philippines and working here.

This distrust of the Chinese goes back to Spanish times. In fact, the Spaniards massacred the Chinese at the Intramuros Parian Gate.

As for PH-US ties, this could be attributed to the fact that America colonized us for 30 years.

Thus whoever the Chinese ambassador is, he or she will find it difficult to erase the fact that Filipinos would always prefer a relationship with the US. Distrust of the Chinese is already embedded in our minds and it is almost impossible to erase it.

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In my two recent columns I said that the Bases Conversion and Development Authority deal with Malaysia’s MDT Capital Berhad on the building of the sports facilities in Capas, Tarlac is clearly disadvantageous on the part of government.

The questions I raised also showed that the Malaysian firm was favored and got the better end of the contract. It’s for this reason that I asked: What was in it for the BCDA that MTD Capital Berhad got more than it deserved? Santa Banana, it even used a loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines!

The President should have the deal looked into immediately. After all, Mr. Duterte has famously said he is against corruption.

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San Miguel’s P734-billion New Manila International Airport on a 2,500-hectare flatland in Bulacan had been set for groundbreaking at the end of this month when suddenly, the Department of Finance recalled its go signal on the excuse that it would like to like the terms of the unlimited proposal clarified.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the DOF had no object on the building of the Bulacan airport but would just like to see the clarifications. This just means that the groundbreaking would be postponed. When it will take place, I have no idea.

Honestly, I don’t know why the DOF is so worried with the San Miguel project. It can potentially employ a million workers. The airport will have four to six runways. It will be built with the help of groups responsible for the building of the Changi Airport in Singapore and the Charles de Gaulle Airport in France.

I recall that the DOF had objected to the San Miguel project saying it would have an impact on the Clark International Airport, a government project.

Indeed sometimes it is the government itself putting hurdles on business.

In fact, if I recall right, when Ramon S. Ang was president of Philippine Airlines, he submitted to government his unsolicited proposal to put up the Bulacan project, My gulay, that was six years ago. If the government had listened, we would have been enjoying the international airport now.

There are other “game-changer” projects of San Miguel in the works. There is the MRT-7, and the expressway connecting the North Luzon Expressway to the South Luzon Expressway.

Ang’s unsolicited proposal to build a 10-lane expressway over Edsa is practical and doable. It will solve the traffic nightmare.

Ang also wants to extend the MRT project to Bocaue, Bulacan.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Manila Water , Maynilad
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