April 2, 2019 / 4:36 AM / 6 months ago

Duterte orders review of government contracts to ensure they're fair to Filipinos

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a review of all government contracts with companies and other countries to ensure they are fair to Filipinos, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

The review would “determine whether there are onerous provisions in the contract that would put the Filipino people in disadvantage or in violation of the constitution”, spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular news conference.

It was unclear how many contracts would be up for review, or the scope of such investigations which will be carried out by the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice secretary.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the review will prioritize so-called concession agreements, or contracts between the government and private companies, for public utilities and contracts for foreign loans.

If the government discovers onerous provisions in these deals, they could either be re-negotiated or terminated, Guevarra told Reuters.

Panelo said the order, which the president gave during a cabinet meeting on Monday, was prompted by a 1997 contract entered into by the government that allowed a water company to recover taxes by adjusting its fees.

Domingo Yap, president of a business chamber of thousands of Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs, said he welcomed the announcement.

“There is nothing wrong with the government review. As a matter of fact, we want the government to be transparent. The president now is very strict. He wants no corruption. On our part, that is advantageous”, Yap told Reuters.

“We like the government to be transparent. But once we approve a deal after scrutiny and it is found to be free from corruption, the projects should be fast tracked.”

Robert Roces, chief economist at Security Bank in Manila, said the review should be a positive.

“Worst case is that this results in inefficiency if and when a sudden halt is ordered to projects already rolled out,” he told Reuters.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Nick Macfie and Christian Schmollinger

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