Duterte orders review of all gov't contracts, including foreign loans
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the review of all government contracts, including loan agreements with other countries, to ensure that they are not "onerous."
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte made the directive during the 36th Cabinet meeting in Malacanang on Monday night after finding out about a deal with Maynilad Water Services where the government is paying billions of pesos to the water concessionaire.
"He (Duterte) directed the Solicitor General, the Department of Justice Secretary and all legal departments to review, evaluate, scrutinize every contract entered by the government and/or its agencies with private corporations and/or countries and determine whether there are onerous provisions in the contract that will put the Filipino people in disadvantage or in violation of the Constitution," he said.
Panelo, also chief presidential legal counsel, said that Duterte learned about the arbitration case, which the Philippine government lost to Maynilad and was ordered to pay the latter with over P3.5 billion.
"Because he found out that during the Ramos administration, there was a contract between Maynilad...and the Republic of the Philippines. And in that contract, the government, the Republic of the Philippines was prohibited into interfering, intruding into the terms of the contract ? and that’s why we lost in the arbitration tribunal and I think we were made to pay 3.5 billion-something pesos. Because according to the ruling, the government intervened, and by reason of the intervention, Maynilad suffered damages," he said.
"And the President could not believe that how can a contract like this entered by the government imposing a ban on the government to take government action with respect to such item as water services," Panelo added.
Since the government could no longer rescind the contract with Maynilad, he said the administration would try to find out if there was collusion between the lawyers of the government and that of Maynilad.
If there was collusion, he said they would be prosecuted.
Asked if former President Fidel Ramos could be investigated also, Panelo could not give a categorical statement.
"Let's see. That will be in the hands of the SolGen and the Secretary of Justice," he said.
The review would also include loan agreements signed by the Philippine government with other countries, he said.
Some quarters, including Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, have raised concern over the $62-million loan agreement that the Duterte administration signed with China on Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.
Asked on the government loan with China, Panelo said, "Well, we can always go back to it; but as far as the Department of Finance is concerned, it’s above board and they have explained extensively at that."
The spokesman also downplayed any negative effect on the investors' confidence in the country with Duterte's latest order.
"No, I don’t think so. Because the?as I have said some time ago, the considerations being looked at by potential investors are, one, the peace and order situation; the lack of bureaucracy or bureaucratic red tape; and the business climate," he said.
The new directive could also "forewarn" investors that they could not enter into any agreement that is in violation of the Constitution or a public policy, he said.
In the same Cabinet meeting, Panelo said a roadmap was presented to address water shortage.
The roadmap includes immediate, medium and long-term interventions, such as making an intensive campaign for the conservation of water and energy, creating a Department of Water and a Department of Disaster Resilience, dredging of waterways, replacing tunnels and aqueducts, installing water tank systems in all Department of Health hospitals and providing funding for the establishment of water treatment plants, he said. Celerina Monte/DMS