MANILA WATER Company, Inc. warned of an “exponential” water rate increase by as much as P26.70 per cubic meter (cu.m.) if the Supreme Court does not reverse its decision to fine the Ayala-led company for its supposed failure to comply with the Clean Water Act (CWA).

In a statement on Wednesday, the company said it had complied with its sewerage responsibilities under the law and should not be meted a penalty of as much as P921 million. It was among the entities that were fined by the court.

“If the concessionaires were to compress into five years as the SC ruling wants what was planned as a 40-year project, the hundreds of billions of pesos required would lead to an increase in the water bill of subscribers, leaving them less money for other necessities and triggering higher inflation,” it said.

Manila Water said aside from the 780% increase in water rates, Metro Manila should brace for a worse traffic if the decision issued in August is not reversed.

In its motion for reconsideration filed on Oct. 2, the water concessionaire said the decision to fine it for failing to complete its sewerage projects by 2009, or five years after CWA took effect, including the running daily fine of P322,102 until the sewerage projects are completed have no basis.

It said Section 8 of CWA simply required Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. to interconnect the “existing” water lines of households, condominiums, subdivisions, among others, to the “available” sewer lines of the concessionaires.

Manila Water said that by 2009, it had interconnected 61,000 out of 63,000 subscribers to its sewer trunk.

“The rest could not be interconnected because the ‘available’ sewers would be compromised if overloaded. But since then, the company had installed additional sewers and spent billions of pesos more than it had collected for the purpose,” it said.

It said Section 8 did not envision the completion of the whole project, but only interconnection. It added that the law penalizes only the polluters or their positive acts of commission.

“An act of omission such as a failure to interconnect is not punishable,” it said.

“Worse traffic is also to be expected since hundreds of kilometers of roads, including EDSA, which are part of the Manila Water’s East Zone, would have to be dug up all at the same time,” it added. “The daily loss of P3.5 billion caused by existing traffic congestion could balloon significantly. — VVS