Atienza hails SC ruling penalizing water utility firms, MWSS for ignoring his order as DENR chief

Published August 7, 2019, 9:26 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Ben Rosario

A senior congressman Wednesday lauded the Supreme Court for imposing a hefty fine on the two Metro Manila water concessionaires and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, saying that the ruling will serve as deterrence for violation of environmental laws.

BUHAY Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza (Lito Atienza FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)
BUHAY Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza

Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said the SC decision upholding a 2009 directive of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should also be applied to other cases involving violation of the Clean Water Act.

In a decision issued the other day, the High Court has penalized for violation of the Clean Air Act =the Maynilad Water Services Inc., Manila Water Co. Inc. and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) with a hefty fine for defying the Clean Water Act.

“Punishment now is our best deterrence to violators of our environmental protection laws,” said Atienza.

Atienza was the DENR secretary who issued the 2009 order to penalize MWSS and the two private water concessionaires.

,“We first cited the three entities in April 2009 for violating Section 8 of the Clean Water Act which requires them to provide wastewater treatment facilities and to connect sewage lines in all establishments, including households, to an available sewerage system,” Atienza said.

“The following month, we imposed on them an initial fine of P29.4 million, which has already ballooned to almost P2 billion, and which the Supreme Court now says should be paid inside 15 days, without prejudice to further daily fines until the violators meet the terms of the law,” Atienza said.

The former Manila mayor noted that instead of fulfilling their contractual obligation of putting up wastewater treatment facilities,” the MWSS and the water concessionaires went to the Court of Appeals, where they lost. They went to the Supreme Court, and now they’ve also lost. It is the end of the road for them,” Atienza said.

“They now have to quickly put up sufficient wastewater treatment facilities, as we’ve been repeatedly pointing out in Congress, and connect all households and establishments in their concession areas to an available sewerage system. Until they do, they will have to continue paying the P322,102 daily fine, which escalates by 10 percent in two years,” Atienza added.

According to Atienza, the High Court’s decision comes very timely, as the government is bent on cleaning up Manila Bay.

“As we understand, some P42-billion has been allotted to clean up Manila Bay.  But as we’ve been pointing out repeatedly, without the necessary wastewater treatment facilities, household wastewater will just continue to flow directly into our water bodies. This will all be just a big waste of money,” Atienza said.