February 13 ------ President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he was not inclined to talk to new investors in the water business. Speaking at the induction of new officers of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas in Malacañang, Duterte said he was leaving the matter to his economic managers. “Of course may bagong mga negosyante, they will infuse. I do not know for what reason. Well, I am ready, not me but ‘yung economic managers ko na lang. I refuse to talk to them,” he said.
Last week, conglomerate Ayala Corp. announced that it granted major voting powers to ports and casino magnate Enrique Razon’s group in Manila Water following the businessman’s acquisition of a 25% stake in the beleaguered water concessionaire. Razon’s fresh capital infusion came amid the government’s push for a new concession agreement with Manila Water and Maynilad to replace the current arrangement which the government deemed onerous. “How can I now proceed with a new contract acceptable to them with the entry of new businessmen? Okay 'yan. Paano 'yung ginawa ninyo? Duterte said. He hinted that a big law firm was behind the controversial 1997 concession agreement. “Sino nagplano niyan? Ang nagplano niyan mga abugado. Ang nagplano niyan malaking opisina na law firm. They are the only ones who could do that. Government lawyers would never attempt,” he said.
The two-decade-old concession deal went through scrutiny after Manila Water and Maynilad won in separate multi-billion peso arbitration cases abroad, infuriating Duterte. The companies said last December that they were no longer pursuing the awards.