Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has signalled his readiness to negotiate with the country’s water firms if they return the money they allegedly stole from consumers.
During the oath taking of new appointees in the Malacanang presidential residence on Thursday, Duterte said that he wants to know where the money collected from consumers by water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad went.
According to him, that money came from “the average Filipino who are poor but who pays his water bill and he has to pay because if it will be cut off, it would give him a lot of headache for the day”.
“[...] So where is the money? Where is the money of that son of a b****? Give us back the money. Give it back to the people and maybe we can talk about solving your problem. It will not be the problem of this government”, Duterte added.
The remarks come after he said earlier this week that he does not want to sit down with the water firms, which he claimed “milked Filipinos by billions and which treated water “not as a natural resource but as a commodity”.
Last month, Duterte suggested that some “rich” and “crazy” people in his country “should be killed”, in an apparent nod to the chairmen of the country’s water concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water, Manuel V. Pangilinan and Fernando Zobel de Ayala respectively.
“There are rich people in the Philippines who are crazy. They are the ones we should kill. Just wait for my signal. Behind a killing is a leader, especially if his followers are stupid and would just fire whenever they are told to”, the president said.
He added that he was angry at the tycoons for “violating the rights of people” by becoming millionaires for “just” distributing water.
Maynilad and Manila Water recently dropped claims to $212 million (P10.8 billion) in compensation that was awarded to them by a Singapore-based arbitration court with regard to apparent losses resulting from earlier non-implementation of water hikes, an award that was publicly slammed by Duterte.