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DENR fines 3 water firms P29.4M for violating Clean Water Act

(Updated 4:16 p.m.) The Manila Bay is becoming one big septic tank, according to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Jose “Lito" Atienza. And what’s to blame? Water utilities’ supposed failure to mount wastewater treatment facilities in Metro Manila as required by law. Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and its two service concessionaires – Maynilad and Manila Water – are facing a P29.4-million sanction for their “non-compliance" with the Clean Water Act (Republic Act 9275). On Thursday, Atienza said the department had no choice but to crack its whip against the three water utilities for failing to install and maintain wastewater treatment facilities within five years after the law was enacted in May 2004. "Their failure to set up wastewater treatment plants is really frustrating. They violated the Clean Water Act. We are just following the law, we have no choice but to charge them," Atienza told GMANews.TV in a phone interview. Maynilad (Maynilad Water Services Inc. or MWSI) distributes water to the metro’s west zone while Manila Water (Manila Water Co. Inc. or MWCI), services the east zone. The MWSS, also a private firm, regulates the two utilities. According to the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, the three firms are also mandated “to connect existing sewage lines… within five years" after the Clean Water Act’s enactment or within May 2004 to May 2009: Section 8 of RA 9275 lists the following sewage lines that should be connected to an available sewage system for proper wastewater treatment and disposal:
It's not only trash and debris that pollute Manila Bay's waters. DENR Sec. Lito Atienza says the discharge of untreated wastewater from households and industries turn the historic landmark into "one big poso negro (septic tank)." AP File Photo
  • Subdivisions,
  • Condominiums,
  • Commercial centers,
  • Hotels,
  • Sports and recreational facilities,
  • Hospitals,
  • Market places,
  • Public buildings,
  • Industrial complex,
  • Households, and
  • Other similar establishments.
MWSS unfazed Atienza said the P29.4 million penalty covers the period between May 7 to Sept. 30, 2009. The fine may go higher for every day it is not fully paid. "If they failed to comply, a fine of P200,000 per day will continue to be imposed upon them until such time that they have fully complied with the provision of Section 8 of RA 9274," Atienza said in a separate statement. Atienza, however, did not detail how the P29.4-million sanction would be divided among MWSS, Maynilad, and Manila Water. MWSS administrator Diosdado Allado said they would refuse to pay any penalty because as far as they are concerned, they are doing their job. “All I can say is that there’s a legal move already. The MWSS has filed the relevant motion (before the DENR)," Allado said. He declined to give further details on the motion. He only said that because the MWSS only regulates Maynilad and Manila Water, it should not be fined. Although this was acknowledged by Atienza himself, the DENR chief said command responsibility dictates that MWSS be sanctioned too. "We are only after the Maynilad and Manila Water, but because they are supervised by the MWSS, the MWSS is included," Atienza said. GMANews.TV tried to reach Manila Water to hear its side but it could not be reached. For his part, Maynilad corporate affairs and public relations head Cherubim Ocampo denied that the water utility committing any wrongdoing. “We are on track with regards to our wastewater treatment commitments under our concession agreement with MWSS," Ocampo said in a text message. He added that Maynilad also filed its motion for reconsideration before the Pollution Adjudication Board, which Atienza chairs. “We are hopeful that they will reconsider their decision," Ocampo said. Allado, however, took up the cudgels for Manila Water and Maynilad. "As far as I know mayroon silang (Manila Water and Maynilad) nilagay (na wastewater treatment plants). Ang baka sinasabi lang ng DENR ay kulang." Manila Bay in peril Atienza said the further degradation of Manila Bay’s waters is caused by poor sewerage systems and improper disposal of household waste water. "All of Manila’s wastewater goes to the Manila Bay, which has become one big poso negro (septic tank)," Atienza said. Director Roberto Sheen, head of DENR-EMB for Metro Manila, said the so-called failure of MWSS, Maynilad, and Manila Water to install water treatment facilities “resulted in the discharge of untreated wastewater from industries and households in the region directly into the Manila Bay." This adversely affected the implementation of the Manila Bay Operational Plan, he said in a statement. Last December, the Supreme Court ordered a multi-agency effort to restore the historic water landmark’s old glory. Aside from the DENR and the MWSS, the agencies involved in the rehabilitation project include the Education Department, the Health Department, the Interior and Local Government Department, the Public Works and Highways Department, the Agriculture Department, Budget and Management Department, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the National Police’s Maritime Group, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Local Water Utilities Administration. - GMANews.TV