"Maynilad and Manila Water cannot understand why they are being singled out."
In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision ordering Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Company (MWC) to pay a fine of P921 million for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the two water concessionaires are now asking the court to reconsider its stand.
The high court said the two firms failed to connect the sewer lines of homes and commercial establishments to the existing sewage line in the metropolis as mandated under the law.
Both Maynilad and MWC insist that the Supreme Court had earlier given the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and its two concessionaires until 2037 to complete the connection of all private and government sewerage systems lines to the existing sewer lines, along with the setting up of other wastewater management facilities. The deadline is explicitly stated in the case of "MMDA et al. vs. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay," or the Manila Bay case.
The high court pointed out that the cleanup of Manila Bay is a joint effort. Thus, neither MWC nor Maynilad, or even the MWSS, can do the job alone of fully complying with the CWA and the Manila Bay cleanup without the other agencies involved doing their part.
Hence, the two water concessionaires cannot understand why they are being singled out when government agencies and local government units have apparently failed to do their job under the CWA.
The government agencies involved are the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources. These agencies and the LGUs were all assigned tasks under the CWA to carry out the law’s provisions.
Under Republic Act 9275 or the CWA, the DILG is mandated to order all mayors of Metro Manila and the governors of affected provinces to inspect and determine if wastewater treatment facilities are in place in their respective communities. The agency was also required to submit a five-year plan of action that will ensure compliance by factories, commercial establishments and private homes with the CWA.
For its part, the DPWH, in coordination with LGUs, was also tasked under the CWA to prepare a national program on sewage and septage management.
The DENR, as lead agency responsible for implementing the CWA, is supposed to draw up a Water Quality Management Area Action Plan, which includes setting the goals and targets for a sewerage or septage program.
It appears now that the three agencies have been remiss in doing their part in implementing the Clean Water Act.
The two water concessionaires assert that they cannot speed up the construction of sewage treatment plants or STPs and complete them in a short span of five years because simultaneous construction will cause heavy inconvenience to the public resulting from the ensuing road excavations. Thus, building STPs has to be done in phases to avoid traffic congestion in affected areas.
They also say that the wastewater treatment facilities they have built so far would be rendered ineffective in realizing the goals of the CWA if informal settlers continue to directly dump their wastes into rivers, lakes and esteros.
Moreover, fast-tracking the completion of STPs would require such a huge amount of money, which means consumers will end up paying much higher monthly water bills as Maynilad and Manila Water would have to adjust their rates so they could recoup their investments before the end of their concessions.
Maynilad claims it has 20 ISO-certified operational wastewater facilities with a combined capacity to treat 542,000 cubic meters per day, and has already invested P23.3 billion in wastewater treatment projects to service its customers in Metro Manila’s West Zone.
To comply with the SC deadline on 100 percent completion by 2037, Maynilad will implement four sewerage projects over the 2018-2022 period. At present, it is on track to complete its target of 100-percent sewerage coverage for the West Zone by the end of its 25-year concession in 2037. It has so far completed 20 percent, a significant improvement from 6 percent in 2006 before Maynilad’s re-privatization.
According to Maynilad, it will invest P26.4 billion in the next five years to build new STPs and lay sewer lines in the cities of Caloocan, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa, and in Kawit, Cavite. This year alone, Maynilad will shell out about P11.4 billion for wastewater treatment projects.
Maynilad announced just last week that it is setting aside P200 billion to build 26 new STPs and install 425 kilometers of new sewer lines from 2019 to 2037. Meanwhile, Manila Water is spending P115 billion on its wastewater programs until 2037. Moreover, both concessionaires have spent hundreds of billions to solve the water crisis in Metro Manila since 2007 but have yet to recoup their investments.
Given that the implementation of the CWA is a multi-agency and multi-sectoral effort, Maynilad and MWC contend that they shouldn't be unfairly singled out and penalized for something that they actually have up to 2037, or 18 years more, to accomplish.