High court upholds P1.8-B fine for MWSS, concessionaires

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THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has upheld fines totaling close to P2 billion on the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and concessionaires Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. for violations of an environmental law.

SC Public Information Chief Brian Keith F. Hosaka in a statement said the court voted unanimously, 14-0, to uphold the decision of the Court of Appeals that found the regulator and its concessionaires liable for violating Section 8 of the Republic Act No.9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

Maynilad and Manila Water are each jointly liable with MWSS to pay P921.5 million covering the period May 7, 2009 to Aug. 6, the date of promulgation of the Supreme Court decision.

They are ordered to pay the fine within 15 day upon receipt of the decision.

The court also fined then of the initial amount of P322,102 per day subject to 10% increase every two years until full compliance with RA 9275.

The case stemmed from the fine imposed of P29.4 million by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for non-compliance with the clean water law due to their failure within five years after the law took effect in early 2004 to install and maintain wastewater treatment facilities.

The water concessionaires elevated their case to the Court of Appeals which, in 2012, dismissed their petitions and affirmed the fine imposed by the DENR-Pollution Adjudication Board, saying it correctly ruled that the company violated the clear water law.

Motions for reconsideration were denied for lack of merit in 2013.

Sought for comment, Jeric T. Sevilla, head of Manila Water’s Corporate Strategic Affairs Group and Corporate Communications, said in a mobile phone message that the firm has “yet to receive a copy of the ruling/decision”.

Maynilad Chief Operating Officer Randolph T. Estrellado said via text that his company “has not yet received a copy of the Supreme Court decision, but assuming the news is correct, then we intend to file a motion for reconsideration within the allowed 15 days from receipt of the ruling.”

Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which has a 52.8% interest in Maynilad, is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas