Accounting of water fees pressed
Following the Supreme Court’s announcement of penalties totaling P1.8 billion for violation of the Clean Water Act, consumer welfare advocates are asking how the environmental fees that water supply providers collected from their customers were used.
On Tuesday, the high court announced that it has fined jointly Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) about P921.5 million for failure to provide wastewater treatment facilities and to connect sewage lines in all establishments, including households, to an available sewerage system within five years upon effectivity of the CAA in 2004.
Also, the Supreme Court slapped the same amount of joint financial penalty against Manila Water Co. Inc. and MWSS.
The ruling was an affirmation of a decision of the Court of Appeals in 2013 that upheld an order of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that imposed fines against MWSS and concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) welcomed the high tribunal’s decision, saying that in 2018, the MWSS admitted that only 14 percent of the total service areas of Maynilad and Manila Water were covered by the proper sewerage facilities.
“What is worse is that residential consumers continue to pay environmental fees, while industrial and commercial users pay sewerage fees,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said in an interview.
“If the targets were not met, hence the penalties, where did the money go?” Reyes asked. “Were the fees used for purposes other than putting up the necessary sewerage facilities? Were profits again placed ahead of public interest?”
He said Congress should conduct an investigation on where the fees went amid the concessionaires’ failure to comply with the law.
In a regulatory filing, Manila Water said it had yet to receive a copy of the decision from the Supreme Court.
“As such, we will have to defer making a comment or statement on the matter until we are afforded an opportunity to make an informed assessment and evaluation” of the ruling, Manila Water said.
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