President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
Photo courtesy of MB.

MANILA, Philippines — A “desperate” President Duterte yesterday ordered the completion of two projects designed to ensure enough water supply in Metro Manila and nearby areas, saying indigenous people would have to be relocated and no court could stop it.

Duterte said the China-funded Kaliwa Dam and the Razon-led Wawa Dam would be Metro Manila’s “last resort to have water.”

“The people living there, they are, of course, they are all natives. They are trying to delay the project… And we need water. Manila without Wawa and Kaliwa Dam, this will be the last resort to have water for Manila,” the President said during his visit to Digos City, Davao del Sur yesterday.

“I will order them to go ahead and we will pay the natives and we will relocate them. But for the courts to issue (temporary restraining orders or TROs), I said, do not take it to the point that I would say, ‘Ignore them,’” he said, describing himself as “desperate” to find relief for the problem.

He threatened to send owners of the Metro Manila water concessionaires to jail for syndicated estafa, saying their deals smacked of corruption.

The P12.2-billion Kaliwa Dam to be constructed in Quezon province is one of the government projects funded by Chinese loans.

Meanwhile, the P20-billion Wawa Dam to be built in Rizal is a joint

venture between Prime Infra of businessman Enrique Razon and San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders Group.

Duterte claimed losing bidders have been using TROs to delay projects and to extort money from winning bidders.

“Do not believe in the courts because it’s all about money… The losing bidder will file a case. A TRO will then be issued and the projects will be delayed, only to realize that the losing bidder only wants some money from the winning bidder,” the President said.

“I’m warning the judges – be sparing about issuing TRO; otherwise, I will publicly announce do not follow (your decision). You follow the program of the government,” he added.

Not all judges are using court decisions to earn money, according to Duterte, but he claimed that the problem has stalled the delivery of basic services.

“If you give the judge money, he would issue a TRO and you delay the projects and that is why we are caught in a bind, whether we would be able to deliver water in the coming years,” the President said.

“That is why this shenanigan in the Philippines is part of the graft and corruption. It’s money,” he added.

Judges should be able to justify the TROs they would issue, according to the Chief Executive; otherwise, he would force them to eat the paper containing the decision.

“I will go to him, tell him to read the TRO. If it’s really a work of the legal mind then, maybe… If not, I will ask him to eat the TRO,” he said.

‘Issue of corruption’

Duterte yesterday also threatened to send owners of water concessionaires to jail, saying the controversy involving their deals with the government is “an issue of corruption.”

The President said the owners of Manila Water and Maynilad should be arrested for syndicated estafa over concession deals that he claimed are disadvantageous to the public.

“I will really have you arrested. Believe me. I want to see a billionaire in jail. Son of a b****. Do not give me b***s***. I will order the military to take over your water,” he said during his visit to earthquake survivors yesterday in M’lang, North Cotabato.

“To those asking, ‘Where’s the big fish? Where are those involved in corruption? Where are the big ones?’ I will deliver to you now Ayala and Pangilinan,” he added, apparently referring to Manila Water chairman of the board Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Maynilad chairman of the board Manuel Pangilinan.

“’Pag nagkamali ‘yang…gagong yan, ipakukulong ko talaga sila. Kita mo maski anong insulto ko hindi – hindi na sumasagot. Sigurado, swak sila (If they commit a mistake, those fools, I will send them to jail. They have not responded to my insults. I’m sure they are liable),” the President said.

Duterte has accused the two Metro Manila water concessionaires of using their concession deals to “milk” Filipino consumers by the billions.

The Chief Executive said the contracts prevent the government from blocking rate hikes and permit concessionaires to collect damages for losses that stem from regulatory actions.

He added that the government officials behind the contracts should also be charged with economic sabotage, plunder and graft.

“This issue of the Ayalas and Pangilinan, all billionaires, is an issue of corruption and you fooled the people. Your son of a b**** contracts, nobody saw them. It was negotiated during the time of (former president Ferdinand) Marcos, continued (during) the time of (former president Gloria) Arroyo, who allowed it to be extended. They wanted to extend it under my watch, I said, no,” Duterte said.

The water concession deals, however, were signed during the time of former president Fidel Ramos, not Marcos.

“I will expropriate it. Maghintay kayo kung may pera ako pambayad. Kung wala, pasensya kayo (Wait until I determine whether I have money to pay for it. If I have none, sorry),” Duterte said.

Duterte claimed the owners of water concessionaires acted as if they owned the water they are distributing.

“They are just water distributors. But as it turned out, they are the richest and they think they are the owners of water. That’s why in the contracts they are the only (ones) allowed to implement increase,” he said.

“We surrendered (our) sovereignty on that. In the contracts, water is just a commodity. It is not a part of the… natural resource of the country, which is really a crooked way of interpreting a Constitution,” he added.

This article was originally published by PhilStar.