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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Duterte willing to negotiate with Manila Water, Maynilad 

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President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed willingness to make amends with water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad if they accept the "corrected" contracts.

Duterte's said he expects Manila Water and Maynilad to have received and seen the government's draft water deal that removes onerous provisions from the previous contracts with them.

"I suppose that up to now, they must already have the copies of the proposed contract, as corrected," he said in an interview with ABS-CBN. "And 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 was irked by the two water firms after the Singapore-based Permanent Court of Arbitration issued separate rulings, ordering the Philippine government to pay PHP3.4 billion and PHP7.39 billion to Maynilad and Manila Water, respectively, for their supposed losses and damages.

On Tuesday, the President said the two water concessionaires can only either accept the new water contracts or face cancellation of their present deals.

He also announced on Wednesday that he has ordered the government's lawyers to present the draft water deal to Manila Water and Maynilad.

Duterte said he was not setting a timeline for the signing of the new water contracts.

He, however, reiterated that he would not hesitate to cancel the present water deals with the two concessionaires and nationalize the water services if they reject his new proposal.

"But if you do not sign the contract, there is no contract because we have terminated it for all intents and purposes," the President said. "It is my stand that the contract was null and void from the very beginning because the provisions, the anti-graft law, and constitutional requirements, have been transgressed."

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said the government is targetting the completion of the new water contracts in three to six months.

In a media interview on Friday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the new concession agreements drafted by the government would be "most advantageous to the general public."

Under the draft water contract, the national government can reject rate increases that might be imposed by Manila Water and Maynilad, Nograles said.

Duterte reiterated that he could not guarantee that the plan to file cases against the two water firms would be dropped, in case they accept the new contract.

"You agree to this new contract but I cannot give a guarantee that no charges will be filed," he said. "Eh talagang niyari tayo ng husto (They took advantage of us). If I will file charges, I will include all, both sides."

Duterte earlier ordered the filing of appropriate criminal, civil, and administrative charges against the owners and legal counsels of Manila Water and Maynilad, as well as the agents and lawyers of the government involved in the crafting of the water concession deals.

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