Refund water consumers ‘for service never rendered’ – Atienza
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker on Wednesday called on the government to give refunds to consumers in Metro Manila from fines imposed by the Supreme Court on the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and its two water distributors for violating the Philippine Clean Water Act.
In a privilege speech, Buhay Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr. said Congress should cancel the contracts between the MWSS and the two distributors — Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co.—if they failed to comply with the court order.
“They have been ordered, they should follow. If they fail, we should cancel the contract. The certainty of punishment is the best deterrent to the commission of crime,” Atienza said.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court held the MWSS, Maynilad and Manila Water “jointly and severally liable” for violation of the Clean Water Act and ordered them to pay P921,464,184 each for failing to connect homes and business establishments to the sewerage system.
Atienza said consumers over the years had been paying a sewage fee, amounting to 20 percent of their monthly water bills, for service that had never been rendered.
“We have asked our lawyers to look into possible ways of refunding consumers for the 20 percent sewage fee that they have been paying since 1997 for a service that has not been rendered by the water concessionaires,” he said.
A former environment secretary, Atienza hailed the Supreme Court for doing justice to consumers, who he said had been “abused” by the MWSS and the two distributors for more than 22 years.
He expressed disgust over how the MWSS and the two companies defied his order as environment secretary in April 2009 to abide by the terms of their concession agreement for the installation of sewage treatment plants.
“Instead of complying, they hailed us all the way to the Supreme Court, and for many years managed to dodge the law. But [on Tuesday] justice prevailed,” Atienza said.
Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said the fines should also go to consumers because they were the ones who shouldered the expenses of the concessionaires through the sewage and sanitation fees.
“Obviously, Maynilad and Manila Water are not using these fees for their intended purpose,” Colmenares said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed hope that the decision would make the two concessionaires take environmental protection and sanitation seriously.
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