DENR to Manila Water, Maynilad, MWSS: Pay fines instead of spending on legal actions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 8) — Rather than spending "so much" on legal actions, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Sytem (MWSS) and private water concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad should immediately comply with the Supreme Court's ruling ordering them to pay a fine of almost ₱1 billion each.

This was the appeal aired by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday, saying the amount will go to the rehabilitation of Manila Bay--an initiative which the agency said has a "tight budget."

The high court announced Tuesday that the magistrates voted 14-0 to impose a penalty worth ₱921.46 million for each of the two private water concessionaires and MWSS for violating Republic Act 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act. The three failed to put up sewerage systems in their service areas 10 years ago, the SC found out.

The court gave the three institutions 15 days upon receiving a copy of the decision to pay the fine. Until full payment of the amount, they will incur a penalty worth ₱322,102 a day. The law also adds 10 percent to the fine every two years, until compliance with Section 8 of the Clean Water Act is met.

In a statement, Environment Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny Antiporda said the whole agency is "grateful for the SC ruling that is expected to boost government efforts to rehabilitate the heavily polluted Manila Bay."

“[Environment] 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,” Antiporda said.

The undersecretary said he hopes that the SC ruling would serve as "a wake up call to big firms that they should pay serious attention and comply with our environmental laws.”

Manila Water, for its part, said it has yet to receive a copy of the high court's decision and that it will "exercise all our legal options, including filing for a Motion for Reconsideration, within the prescribed time mandated by the law on receipt of the said order."