Buhay Party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza on Sunday said Manila Bay being “swimmable” is still years away.
He said it may take “several years” before the public could enjoy swimming safely in the waters of Manila Bay at the rate households in the National Capital Region are being connected to a sewage system.
“Sadly, we expect the bay’s fecal coliform levels to stay extremely elevated in the years ahead, considering that some 85 percent or 13.9 million of the water-served population in Metro Manila are still not hooked up to a sewage network,” Atienza said.
The greater part of Metro Manila’s toilet waste will continue to get discharged into stormwater drains and flow untreated into channels, including the Pasig River, that all empty out into the bay every day, the lawmaker noted.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources should exert more pressure on the private water concessionaires and “expeditiously fulfill” their obligations under the Clean Water Act of 2004, Atienza said.
“Under the law, they are supposed to attach all households to a sewage system, and then treat all the collected wastewater. They can either reuse the cleaned water, or recycle it back into the natural environment,” the former Environment secretary added.
Both Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. have projected they would need another 16 years, or until 2037, to connect all homes to a sewage network.
The Supreme Court in 2019 penalized the two concessionaires and the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System with P1.84 billion in combined fines due to their failure to connect households to a sewage system and their lack of wastewater treatment facilities, Atienza noted.
The three parties were ordered to pay a rolling penalty of P322,102 per day until they achieve 100 percent sewage connection.
The tribunal upheld the penalty originally imposed by Atienza when he was the DENR chief in 2009, after the concessionaires failed to comply with the Clean Water Act’s five-year deadline for them to link up their customers to a sewage system.