By Victor V. Saulon

MAYNILAD Water Services, Inc. is asking the Supreme Court (SC) to reconsider its decision to penalize the company, and Metro Manila’s other water concessionaire, for violating provisions of the Philippine Clean Water Act, its top official said.

“Today (Wednesday), we’re filing. We cannot yet comment on it until it’s filed. Our attention will be called,” said Maynilad President and Chief Executive Officer Ramoncito S. Fernandez in an interview on the sidelines of a water forum in Makati City.

“All of us are going to file separate motions for reconsideration,” he added, referring to Manila Water Co., Inc. and the corporate office of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

Mr. Fernandez said yesterday (Oct. 2) was the deadline for filing the motion, or 15 days after the receipt of the court ruling.

“[We] talked to each other, yes, casually, but formally, no,” he said.

Nestor Jeric T. Sevilla, Jr., Manila Water group head for corporate strategic affairs and head for corporate communications, confirmed in a text message that the company intends to file within the day.

MWSS Chief Regulator Patrick Lester N. Ty said he has yet to be informed by the agency’s corporate office whether it had filed a motion.

Asked about other options should the court reject the motion for reconsideration, Mr. Fernandez said: “We will just follow the law. If they insist that they are correct, wala naman kaming (we don’t have a) choice. We cannot fight city hall, we cannot fight the Supreme Court. But we have very clear arguments.”

He said should the court reject the motion, the impact on consumers’ water tariff would be immediate.

“If the Supreme Court wants to accelerate the implementation of the connections and building of all of those necessary waste water treatment plants, tariff ang impact (the impact is on tariff),” he said.

“We computed it at around P16 per cubic meter and immediate increase. The other one, which is more telling also, is traffic. We all very well know traffic is a huge problem, mayaman ka man o mahirap, nata-traffic ka (whether you’re rich or poor, you will be stuck in traffic),” Mr. Fernandez said.

“That will definitely impact traffic because simultaneous digging of roads will have to be done to comply,” he added.

On Sept. 18, the companies announced their receipt of the Supreme Court en ban decision on the case. The court found the companies liable for fines for violation of Section 8 of Republic Act No. 9275 or The Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

Maynilad, through the company’s main shareholders Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and DMCI Holdings, Inc., said last month that it would file a file a motion for reconsideration by Oct. 2. Ayala-led listed company Manila Water also said last month that it would file a similar motion.

Sec. 8 of the law mandates MWSS, as the government agency vested with the duty to provide water and sewerage services, and/or the concessionaires in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities — as defined in the Local Government Code — to connect all existing sewage lines to the available sewerage system within five years from the law’s effectivity, or from May 6, 2004.

In the court decision, they are jointly and severally liable with the MWSS for the total amount of P921,464,184 covering the period starting from May 7, 2009 to the date of promulgation of the decision last August to be paid within 15 days from finality of the decision.

The decision also enjoins all water supply and sewerage facilities and/or concessionaires in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities to comply strictly with Sec. 8 of the law.

From finality of the decision until full payment of the fine, the water concessionaires are to be fined in the initial amount of P322,102 per day, subject to a further 10% increase every two years as provided under Section 28 of the law, until full compliance with Section 8 of the same law.

The total amount of fines imposed by the decision is to earn legal interest of 6% per annum from finality and until its full satisfaction.

Asked if the motion for reconsideration is the only option after the court decision, Mr. Fernandez said: “I think this is the only avenue.”