There was no need for investors in the country to be “afraid” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to conduct a review of the existing public service contracts with private companies, Malacañang said on Thursday.
In an interview with Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo reiterated that the review of present deals between the government and private firms are advantageous to Filipinos.
“Any pronouncement that says the government will examine, evaluate or review onerous contracts is not something that businessmen should be afraid of. Because it is the duty of the government precisely to protect the interest of the Filipino people,” he said.
“There is nothing to worry on the part of the businessmen, whether foreign or locals, because the government will not be reckless to step into any contract that is not contrary to law,” he added.
Duterte was prompted to order the thorough scrutiny of numerous existing government contracts with the private sector following the discovery of the government’s supposedly “onerous” water deal with Manila Water and Maynilad.
Earlier Thursday, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the review of the government’s existing deals with private companies should be a “delicate balancing act.”
The NEDA made the remarks as it said the government’s latest move has raised worry from the business sector and some credit rating agencies.
Panelo ensured that “everything is being considered.”
He also guaranteed that Duterte would respect the “sanctity” of the contracts, except if these apparently violate the law and disregard public interest and public policy.
“Let me allay the fears of foreign investors, as well as Filipino businessmen. You don’t have to worry about the review kasi (because) if there’s nothing wrong with your contracts, there’s nothing to worry about,” Panelo said.
“The President will certainly respect the sanctity of contracts, except only when from the very provisions, it appears to be contrary to law, contrary to public interest and public policy. Otherwise, ganun pa rin yan (nothing has changed),” he added.
To date, Duterte is focused on addressing the “onerous” provisions in the government’s concession agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad.
Duterte early this year said Manila Water and Maynilad can only choose between accepting the new water contracts crafted by his administration or face cancellation of their present deals.
Duterte also announced on Jan. 17 that state-run Light Rail Transit Authority’s existing contract with the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) will also be subject to review after he learned that Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Manuel V. Pangilinan also have key roles in its operations.
During the press conference, Panelo said the Chief Executive also sees the need to conduct a review of Ayala Land Inc.’s 25-year agreement with state-owned University of the Philippines for the rental of Technohub property in Diliman, Quezon City.
“Sabi niya (Duterte), kailangan talagang pag-aralan yan (He said there was really a need to review that),” the Palace official said. “Ire-review mo lang naman eh (It’s just a review). We will just make an opinion about it.”
The President’s latest pronouncement came following the recommendation of Panelo.
Panelo earlier bared that Ayala Land has been paying only PHP20 per square meter in monthly rentals to the UP.
Early this month, Duterte promised to rectify government contracts with private firms that would be found detrimental to the Filipino people. (PNA)