By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the Supreme Court order imposing ₱1.8-billion fines against the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and its concessionaires serves as a wake up call for big firms to pay serious attention and comply with environmental laws.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu expressed gratitude for the SC ruling that is expected to boost government efforts to rehabilitate the heavily polluted Manila Bay.
Voting 12-0, SC ordered MWSS and Manila Water to “jointly and severally” pay a fine totaling ₱921,464,184 for their non-compliance with Republic Act (RA) 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.
It also ordered MWSS and Maynilad to pay the same amount, which covers the period of May 7, 2009, five years after RA 9275 was enacted, to August 5, 2019 or the day the decision was promulgated.
MWSS, Manila Water and Maynilad were ordered to pay within 15 days from receipt of the ruling. They were also fined ₱322,102 a day from the time they receive a copy of the decision until they have fully settled the fine.
“Secretary Cimatu extends his gratitude to the Supreme Court for this landmark decision that augurs well for the ‘Battle for Manila Bay’ as well as other environmental rehabilitation programs of the government,” DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny Antiporda said.
“We are looking forward to more people in the justice system extending their support for our fight to preserve and save the environment,” he added.
At the same time, Antiporda expressed hope the high court decision would serve as a wake up call to big firms that they should follow the country’s environmental laws.
He likewise appealed to the MWSS and its private concessionaires to immediately comply with the SC order “rather than spending so much money on the legal actions” as the fine proceeds would go to the Manila Bay rehabilitation, which currently operates on a tight budget.
“What we want is the compliance with the Clean Water Act,” said Antiporda adding that the DENR would want Manila Water and Maynilad to come up with their immediate plans on doubling their actions in compliance with the SC order.
The SC, in imposing the fines, affirmed a previous ruling by the Court of Appeals (CA) and denied a petition filed by the MWSS and the water concessionaires.
The court ruled that the MWSS, Manila Water and Maynilad were liable for violation of Section 8 of RA 9275, which requires the connection of existing sewage line in all subdivisions, condominiums, commercial centers and other establishments, including households, to an available sewerage system.
The decision stemmed from a case filed by the DENR, which in 2009, slapped the MWSS and the private concessionaires a fine of ₱29.4 million for their failure to install and maintain wastewater treatment facilities within five years after RA 9275 was enacted in 2004.
Under the law, the daily fine increases by 10 percent every two years until full compliance with Section 8.
In 2013, the CA upheld the authority of the DENR to impose fines for violation of such an important provision in the country’s clean water law.