The Supreme Court will inspect the wastewater treatment facilities on Manila Bay to find out the compliance of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. to their obligation of putting up sewage lines and treatment facilities under the Philippine Clean Water Act.
Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta said he has been informed by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu that the two water concessionaires have started constructing wastewater treatment facilities in both the south and north side of Metro Manila.
“I have not seen the places, but one of these days when we will conduct inspection in accordance with the continuing mandamus that we issued. I think we will try to visit those two places if indeed they already constructed or how much they have done in the construction of the wastewater treatment facilities in Manila Bay,” Peralta said.
In August 2019, the SC ordered Maynilad , Manila Water, and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System to pay a fine of more than P1.84 billion for violation since 2009 of the 2004 Philippine Clean Water Act.
In a 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.
The two water distributors 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….”
The SC decision stated that “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 the date of promulgation (Aug. 6, 2019).”
It also said that “Manila Water shall be jointly and severally liable with MWSS for the same amount and period,” and the two firms “shall pay the fine within 15 days from receipt of the decision.”
“From receipt of the decision until Petitioners have fully paid the amount…, Petitioners shall be fined the initial amount of P322,102.00/day subject to further 10 per cent increase every two years as provided under Section 28 of the Philippine Clean Water Act, until full compliance with Section 8 of the same law.”
The SC’s 2019 decision upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the fine imposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the MWSS and the two water concessionaries.
In an online meeting with journalists last Friday, Oct. 23, Peralta said the SC’s inspection of the sewage lines and treatment facilities is in line with the continuing mandamus issued by the High Court based on its 2008 decision that directed a speedy cleanup, restoration, and preservation of Manila Bay.
Directed to undertake immediate action on the Manila Bay problem are the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), DENR, Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DoH), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Budget and Management ((DBM), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
In line with its continuing mandamus, the SC created the Manila Bay Advisory Committee to monitor and evaluate the reports submitted by the agencies.
The committee is now headed by Chief Justice Peralta with Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda as vice chairperson and Associate Justice Edgardo delos Santos and Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez as members.
Peralta said that the motion to reconsider the August 2019 decision filed by the two water concessionaires will be resolved swiftly by the SC.
“I will confer with the member-in-charge to fast track the resolution of the motion for reconsideration,” he said.
In their motion for reconsideration, both Manila Water and Maynilad claimed they have until 2037 to comply with their obligations under Section 8 of the Philippine Clear Water Act.
They pointed out that it would be “legally and physical impossible” to comply within a five-year period.