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Philippines President Duterte’s Emergency Bill—Will He Renationalize Water and Power?

March 23 (EIRNS)—Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been in a public brawl with the oligarchical families in the country for the past year, threatening to nationalize their privatized companies, over the water utilities’ abuse of the courts to try to extort money from the government, and over the outrageous rates for water and electricity, as well as the poor quality of service. Now, with the COVID-19 a major threat to the people of his nation, he has introduced a bill to establish a State of National Emergency, granting the President emergency powers to bypass some regulations and to give access to certain funds to fight the virus. Already the city of Manila is in quarantine, and it has been announced that next week they may impose total lockdown, with food to be delivered to people’s homes. The Emergency would be in place for “two months, or throughout the state of calamity, whichever comes later,” said the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Joey Salceda.

But one major concern is the supply of water and electricity to all, regardless if bills are being paid. The draft of the emergency legislation circulated on March 22 included granting Duterte the power to temporarily take over the privately-owned public utilities, which were privatized after the 1986 coup against President Ferdinand Marcos, as part of the destruction of the Philippine economy overseen by U.S. neocons George Shultz and Paul Wolfowitz.

The oligarchs howled in opposition, and 22 Chambers of Commerce from America, Australia, the EU and others joined the Makati (the business center of Manila) Associations in giving lip service to an emergency bill, but only on condition that the President drop the threat to nationalize the utilities and other private businesses. As the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, “the public outcry against this earlier version prompted both houses to tone down their respective bills, removing the phrase that said the President could temporarily take over businesses.”

LaRouche’s representative in the Philippines, Butch Valdes, has led the fight for years to reverse the disastrous privatizations of the utilities, and has called on the President to carry through on his warnings that he may do so. Valdes, who also founded the Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino party, is planning to introduce a “LaRouche Hour” on Facebook starting Tuesday, March 24, from his home, during the time he and all seniors have been ordered to remain at home.

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