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Talo kasi! House summons ex-SolGen Hilbay over PH’s failed arbitral defense vs. Salim-Consunji’s Maynilad

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

The House of Representatives has summoned former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay in connection with the ongoing congressional inquiry over the onerous water concession agreement.

House Committee of Environment Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr. said Hilbay should shed light why the Philippines lost in the P3.4-billion arbitral case filed by the Salim-Consunji’s consortium Maynilad.

Barzaga’s remarks came following the manifestation of Committee on Public Accounts chair Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan Party-list) during Tuesday’s House inquiry that it was Hilbay who represented the republic in his capacity as Solicitor General when the Philippine government lost its battle against the Pangilinan-operated Maynilad in the local tribunal and later in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

“Considered the manifestation of our chairman… that it was Atty. Hilbay who represented the government, we want to know who was the defendant in that particular case facing the court? Was it water concessionaires? Was it MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System),” said Barzaga.

The Singapore-based tribunal in 2017 ordered the Philippine Government to pay Maynilad P3.4-billion due to the losses stemming from rejected water rate tariffs.

According the Barzaga, the Republic of the Philippines being a sovereign nation “normally cannot be charged except when they are exercising brute military functions.”

“We want to clarify, sino ba ng naka demanda? Sino ang defendant?” Barzaga stressed.

Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay (Surigao del Sur) backed Barzaga’s pronouncement, and moved to summon Hilbay and other lawyers involved in the arbitral case filed by water concessionaire being operated by businessman Manny Pangilinan against the Philippine government.

During the same hearing, Maynilad CEO Ramoncito Fernandez revealed that the Salim-Consunji consortium being operated by Pangilinan have decided since 2017 to forgo the P3.4-billion arbitral award granted by PCA.

“Na-award ang arbitral award sa Maynilad noong 2017. After we have followed up the government, noong hindi kami binibigyan ng pansin, di na ho kami nagpursigi,” said Fernandez.

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