Supreme Court of the Philippines

SC affirms ruling vs MWSS, Maynilad, Manila Water
SC affirms ruling vs MWSS, Maynilad, Manila Water

COURT OF LAST RESORT. The Supreme Court building in Padre Faura, Manila.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The High Court also lowers the fines imposed on Maynilad and Manila Water

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has unanimously affirmed its 2019 ruling that the Metropolitan Water Works and Sewerage System (MWSS) and concessionaires Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water Company should be held liable for violating Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

The High Court modified its decision in relation to fines imposed on the water concessionaires. In its 2019 ruling, it had ordered them to pay nearly P2 billion in fines for violation of Section 8 of RA 9275.

Under Section 8 of the Clean Water Act, the MWSS requires Maynilad and Manila Water to have wastewater treatment facilities and to connect sewage lines in all establishments and households to a sewerage system within five years, following the effectivity of RA 9275 on March 6, 2004. 

In its resolution on the separate motions for consideration filed by the water concessionaires, made public on October 18, the High Court lowered the fines imposed  on the petitioners.

The High Court ruled that  “Maynilad shall be jointly and severally liable with Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System for a base amount of P30,000 per day of violation counting from May 7, 2009 until January 21, 2022, in the total amount of P202,256,756. 22. 

In the case of Manila Water, it “shall be jointly and solidarily liable with Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System for the base amount of P30,000 per day of violation counting from May 7, 2009 until January 21, 2022, in the total amount of P202,256,726.22.”

The resolution added that the base amount of fines of P30,000 per day of violation “shall be subject to a 10% increase every two years beginning May 7, 2009 until January 21, 2022, following Section 28 of the Philippine Clean Water Act .”

The High Court directed the petitioners to pay the fines within 15 days from receipt of the resolution. It also imposed a 6% legal interest per year on the total amount of the fines from the finality of the resolution to full compliance.

“The total amounts herein indicated shall be deducted from the amount of fines already paid by petitioners, if any, and the difference, if any, shall be returned to them,” the High Court said in a resolution penned by Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando. 

The Supreme Court did not give credence to the claim of Maynilad and Manila Water that RA 9275 holds liable only clear and direct acts that result in pollution. It cited Section 27, listing the prohibited acts under the law, that shows that  “omission, inaction, desistance, passiveness or failure” to do certain acts required by the law are punishable under RA 9275.

“Section 8 is not to be overthought: it provides that within five years from the CWA’s effectivity, petitioners are required to connect sewage lines, and they are expected to complete the required connections after the five-year period. To accede to MWSS’ arguments is absurd. Infrastructure cannot be deemed usable at groundbreaking stage, and laws must never be interpreted to the detriment of the consuming public,” the High Court said in its decision.

“Withal, it remains that petitioners violated Sec. 8 of the CWA as regards their legal duty to interconnect sewage lines,” it added. 

In 2009, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) discovered that the MWSS and the two water concessionaires were hardly done – just at 16% completion, at the time – in building sewage facilities and that full compliance with the RA 9275 was expected by 2030.

The DENR had cited the failure to put of sewage facilities, as required by the law, as a key factor in the deterioration of Manila Bay.

A year earlier, in 2008, the Supreme Court had ordered the DENR and other concerned government agencies to restore Manila Bay to a condition that would allow public bathing and swimming, and for breeding fish species.

DENR later imposed fines against MWSS, Maynilad, and Manila Water, which led the three to bring the case before the Court of Appeals, and then the High Court. –

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