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Monday, March 4, 2024

SC slashes water concessionaires’ fines from P1.8b to P406 million

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The Supreme Court has reduced the fines imposed on water concessionaires from the previous P1.8 billion to P406 million, it said as it affirmed a recent decision.

Maynilad Water Services Inc., Manila Water, and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) were fined a combined P1.8 trillion three years ago for their non-compliance with the Clean Water Act.

The SC in 2019 fined Maynilad and MWSS P921,464,184, and fined Manila Water and MWSS the same amount separately.

With the decision, published by the High Court last Thursday but made available only over the weekend, they now owe a combined P406 million, or P202,256,726.22 each.

The water concessionaires were “found liable for violation of Sec. 8 of the Philippine Clean Water Act,” the High Court said.

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Section 8 required the connection of existing sewage lines in all subdivisions, condominiums, commercial centers, and other establishments, including households, to an available sewerage system.

In 2009, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) slapped a P29.4-million fine on MWSS, Maynilad, and Manila Water for their alleged failure to install and maintain wastewater treatment facilities within five years after the Clean Water Act was enacted in 2004.

The Court of Appeals upheld the DENR’s decision in 2013.

In separate motions for reconsideration, Maynilad and Manila Water asked the SC in 2019 to reverse its decision, saying it was “impossible” to establish a complete centralized sewage system within five years.

On Friday, Manila Water said in a statement that it is “reinforcing its commitment to the Philippine Clean Water Act as the company operates more wastewater treatment plants to ensure that domestic wastewater from households does not contribute to the pollution of rivers and other water bodies.”

Manila Water said it now operates 41 treatment facilities, increasing the company’s wastewater treatment capacity by 925%, from the previous 40 million liters per day (MLD) to 410 MLD at present.

It added that it is set to build 12 additional single sewage treatment plants (STP), and targets to have a total of 53 wastewater facilities with 1,156 MLD treatment capacity that will cover 100% of its concession area.

For its part, Maynilad earlier said it was building several STPs amounting to P29 billion in Caloocan, Las Piñas, Central Manila, Valenzuela, and Muntinlupa.

It said the completion of its comprehensive wastewater management plan “will ensure full sewerage coverage in our concession area which will help to considerably reduce the pollution load into Manila Bay.”

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