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AFTER SUPREME COURT ORDER

DENR to water firms: Pay P2-B fine, help clean up Manila Bay

/ 05:32 AM August 08, 2019

MANILA,Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday urged the two water distributors in Metro Manila to comply with the Philippine Clean Water Act instead of fighting a Supreme Court order fining them almost P2 billion for violating the environmental law.

Hailing the high court’s decision handed down on Tuesday, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda asked both Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. to expedite their compliance with the law, particularly with the requirement for them to connect homes and business establishments to the sewerage system.

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“Rather than spending their money on legal remedies, they should just comply with the order that can help us in the ongoing rehabilitation of our waterways and of Manila Bay,” Antiporda told reporters.

‘Jointly and severally liable’

“They need to double their efforts to show that they are sincere in helping us in saving the environment,” he added.

Voting 14-0, the Supreme Court held the two companies liable for a total amount of P921,464,184 each, covering the period from May 7, 2009, to Aug. 6, the date of promulgation.

The companies were held “jointly and severally liable” with regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), meaning any of the parties can be held liable to pay the fine.

“They shall pay the fine within 15 days from receipt of the decision,” Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said in a statement on Tuesday.

Beyond the date of promulgation, if the MWSS and the two water distributors are still not compliant with Section 8 of the Clean Water Act—which requires them to connect the sewage lines in subdivisions, homes, complexes, commercial buildings and other establishments to the available sewerage system—they will be fined P322,102 daily until they fully comply with the law.

The daily fine is subject to a 10-percent increase every two years, Hosaka said.

The case stemmed from a DENR decision in 2009 to fine the MWSS, Maynilad and Manila Water P29.4 million for violating Section 8 of the Clean Water Act. In 2011, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decisions of the environment department.

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“Sad to say, [up to] this very moment, these water companies remain noncompliant,” Antiporda said. “Our cleanup [in Manila Bay] will be in vain if they do not double their efforts.”

Manila Bay cleanup

The MWSS is among the 13 government agencies ordered by the Supreme Court in 2008 to clean up Manila Bay.

Over a decade later, however, Manila Bay and the waterways that discharge into it remain heavily polluted, with untreated wastewater dumped directly into the bay.

Earlier this year, the MWSS admitted that only 15 percent of water consumers in Metro Manila are connected to sewer networks. It said it was aiming for full sewer and sanitation coverage by 2037.

It is hoped that the  hefty penalties would be a wake-up call to other big businesses that continue to pollute and violate environmental laws, Antiporda said.

“Big establishments can afford to secure themselves with sewerage treatment plants, but they have chosen to ignore it, making the Clean Water Act their last priority,” he said. —With a report from Tina G. Santos

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TAGS: Clean Water Act, DENR, Manila Water Co. Inc., Maynilad Water Services Inc., water supply
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