By LEE C. CHIPONGIAN

The government has no role in the planned sale of Manila Water Co. (MWC) shares except to collect taxes on such transactions or deals, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said over the weekend.

DOMINGUEZ new photo jan212020 - Gov’t no hand in MWC deals – Dominguez

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III

“We support all moves of all companies to stay financially strong so they can contribute to the welfare of the nation,” Dominguez said when asked if the reported deal structure between Ayala Corp. – current owner of the publicly-listed Manila Water Company, Inc. – and tycoon Enrique Razon is a transaction that he would encourage.

“The DOF (Department of Finance) has no participation in any share transaction involving Manila Water,” he stressed, washing his hands off any deals involving the private sector companies.

“However, if any transaction occurs that is taxable, the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) will certainly take notice of it and collect whatever is due under the law,” added Dominguez.

Rumors, which could not be confirmed, have circulated over the weekend on the supposed MWC-Razon deal structure. In the same rumor mill, MWC was said to make an announcement today, Feb. 3, 2020.

Both water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan have been under fire after President Duterte ordered the review of their contracts with the government.

Last week, the DOF chief reiterated that the ongoing review is for the protection of public interest or taxpayers’ money. “The review of government contracts, we hope, will deliver a clear message that while the government is interested in inviting businesses to our economy, we are also telling the investment community that the interests of the whole nation should be a primary consideration,” he said.

Dominguez said that it was the “duty of the Duterte administration to review the government’s contracts with private corporations with the end goal of ridding them of onerous provisions that do not protect or advance the Filipino people’s interests.”

In the meantime, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Board’s move to issue a resolution on the future of the concession agreements of Manila Water and Maynilad may not be enough because – as pointed out by Dominguez –there has not been any change in the current contracts of these two water service providers.

“Have we cancelled the contracts? There was a board resolution issued by the MWSS. Has it been acted upon? No,” he said.

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