By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered Maynilad Water Services, Inc., Manila Water Co., Inc., and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to pay a fine of more than P1.84 billion for violation of the Philippine Clean Water Act since 2009.
In the unanimous full court decision written by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, the SC also ordered the two water firms and the MWSS to pay a fine of P322,102 for every day of non-compliance with the law.
A brief summary of the unanimous full court decision provided by SC Spokesman lawyer Brian Keith Hosaka, the High Court stated that it denied the petition filed by the two water concessionaires against the decision handed down by the Court of Appeals (CA).
According to Hosaka, the SC ruled as follows:
1. “Maynilad shall be jointly and severally liable with the MWSS for a total amount of P921,464,184 covering the period May 7, 2009 to date of promulgation (Aug. 6, 2019).
2. “Manila Water shall be jointly and severally liable with MWSS for the same amount and period.
3. “They shall pay the fine within 15 days from receipt of the decision.
4. “From receipt of the decision until petitioners have fully paid the amount stated in 1 & 2, petitioners shall be fined the initial amount of P322,102.00 per day subject to further 10 percent increase every two years as provided for under Section 28 of the Philippine Clean Water Act, until full compliance with Section 8 of the same law.
5. “Legal interest of 6 percent per annum until fully satisfied shall be assessed.”
The two firms and MWSS were found to have violated Section 8 of the Philippine Clean Water Act enacted in 2004 under Republic Act No. 9275.
Section 8 of the law provides: “Within five (5) years following the effectivity of this Act, the agency vested to provide water supply and sewerage facilities and/or concessionaires in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities (HUCs) as defined in Republic Act No. 7160, in coordination with LGUs, shall be required to connect the existing sewage line found in all subdivisions, condominiums, commercial centers, hotels, sports and recreational facilities, hospitals, market places, public buildings, industrial complex and other similar establishments including households to available sewerage system….”
A source at the SC said Maynilad and Manila Water were found to have failed to put up sewage lines and sewage treatment facilities as mandated by the law.
The CA decision upheld by the SC affirmed the decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which imposed fines on MWSS, Manila Water, and Maynilad.
The DENR had ruled that MWSS and the two firms should pay P29.4 million in fines for the period starting May 7 to Sept. 30, 2009, and P200 per day thereafter for continued non-compliance with the law.
The unfavorable CA decision prompted the water firms to elevate the issue before the SC.