WATER concessionaires Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. are not allowed to pass on the financial penalties imposed by the Supreme Court to its consumers, the regulator said on Friday.

This after Manila Water on Wednesday warned of a 780% rise in water rates, or P26.7 per cubic meter increase in consumers’ water bills, after the company and Maynilad were fined P921 million by the Supreme Court for not complying with the Clean Water Act.

“We reassure the public that we will not allow the two concessionaires to recover fines from the public. We want to reassure them that we are on top of this,” Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Chief Regulator Patrick Lester N. Ty said in a phone interview, adding this is not allowed under the concession agreements.

Manila Water on Friday clarified that the company never stated that they will pass on fines to consumers.

“The 780% increase included in the pleading in our Motion for Reconsideration to the Supreme Court is what it would have cost to build wastewater facilities to comply with the Supreme Court Decision subject of our Motion for Reconsideration,” it said.

“We are complying with the Supreme Court Mandamus to complete our wastewater programs by 2037.”

The Ayala-led company on Wednesday however said that a compressed sewerage project to comply with the requirements of the High Court would mean that “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.”

Manila Water insisted that it should not be fined as it had complied with sewerage responsibilities under the law.

Former Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao in a statement said they oppose a water hike, calling the passing on of penalties to consumers the “height of immorality of privatization in water utilities.”

“The water utility system in the country will be better off nationalized, as accountability will lie on public officials and threats of immoral water rate hikes will be eradicated. To sincerely uphold public interest, privatization of water utilities must be scrapped,” he said.

Manila Water provides water and wastewater services to the east zone concession areas covering the municipality of Pateros, as well as the cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasig, San Juan, Taguig and Marikina. It is also serves the southeastern parts of Quezon City, as well as Sta. Ana and San Andres in Manila. — Jenina P. Ibañez