President Rodrigo Duterte is outraged over the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore directing the Philippine government to pay Manila Water Co. of the Ayala group billions of pesos for the non-implementation of water rate increases prior to his assumption to the presidency.

Palace spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday that under the 1987 Constitution, all natural resources, including water, belong to and are owned by the state.

“It is indisputable that water is intended for the use, enjoyment and welfare of the citizens,” Panelo said in the statement released by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

He said the use and delivery of water is impressed with public interest and is “but a privilege and therefore must not be abused.”

The Palace said water concessionaires in Metro Manila, Rizal and Cavite have not only “abused the arrangement of delivering and distributing State-owned water to the citizens but have treated the same as a commodity and a money-making venture, instead of considering it as a public service.”

The government said a review of the agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services Inc. had revealed these were contrary to public policy and public interest as well as onerous and disadvantageous to the people, as regards the terms or periods, government non-interference, as well as indemnification for losses.

Duterte was said to have ordered the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General to draft new covenants favorable to the state.

Duterte wants criminal, civil and administrative charges filed against all those involved in the agreements, including the concessionaires and their legal counsels and agents, as well as lawyers of the government for economic sabotage, the Palace said. (Melo M. Acuña)