Lito Atienza's Blog



Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza (left) presents the country’s priority water-related programs to address the impending inadequacy of surface water supply by 2015 at the Southeast Asian Business Form, a part of the recently concluded International Water Week and Water Leaders Summit in Singapore. Atienza encouraged the business leaders and water professionals (right) who attended the event to invest in the country’s water sector. Among the viable areas for investments that Atienza identified include desalination, sewerage and wastewater treatment and other water-related projects.


THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has slapped the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and its two water concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water, with a total P29.4-million fine for violation of Republic Act (RA) 9275, or the Clean Water Act.

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza said the fines were imposed for their failure to install and maintain wastewater-treatment facilities (WTFs) within five years after the Clean Water Act took effect on May 2004 as required by law.

“The fine of P29.4 million covers only the period May 7, 2009, to September 30, 2009. If they failed to comply, a fine of P200,000 per day will continue to be imposed on them until such time that they have fully complied with the provision of Section 8 of RA 9274,” Atienza, who is also chairman of the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), said.

Section 8 of RA 9275 provides that “within five years following the effectivity of this Act, the agency vested to provide water supply and sewerage facilities or concessionaires or both in Metro Manila and highly urbanized cities as defined under Republic Act 7160, in coordination with local governments, shall be required to connect the existing sewerage line found in all subdivisions, condominiums, commercial centers, hotels, sports and recreational facilities, hospitals, market places, public buildings, industrials complex and other similar establishments including households to available sewerage system.”

The water pollution charges filed against MWSS, Maynilad and Manila Water stemmed from the complaints of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) regional offices in Metro Manila, Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) and Central Luzon.

The DENR offices in the said regions scored the failure of the three entities to provide, install, operate and maintain WTFs for sewerage system, which has resulted in the degradation of water quality and beneficial use of Meycauayan and Marilao rivers, which drain to the Obando River, and other water bodies that ultimately drain into the Manila Bay, Atienza said.

He cited the continuing writ of mandamus imposed by the Supreme Court on the DENR and other government agencies to protect, rehabilitate and restore the bay’s water quality as the reason for imposing the fines, even to the MWSS, the government’s water regulatory body.

“The Supreme Court has clearly emphasized two things in its decision: One, that the environmental degradation of Manila Bay is ongoing, and therefore there is extreme necessity for all concerned government agencies to immediately act and discharge their respective official duties and obligations; and second, the need to set timetables for the performance and completion of tasks because time is of the essence in the cleanup of Manila Bay,” Atienza explained.

He said the Supreme Court order is clear in its directive to the DENR to fully implement its Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy, while the MWSS was ordered to provide, install, operate and maintain the necessary adequate WTFs in Metro Manila, Rizal and Cavite, where needed, at the earliest possible time.

But in his complaint affidavit filed with the PAB last year, EMB-Metro Manila Director Roberto Sheen pointed out that the failure of the three water agencies to complete the installation of the WTFs resulted in the discharge of untreated wastewater from industries and households in the region directly into the Manila Bay, thereby adversely affecting the implementation of the Manila Bay Operational Plan.

Chemical analyses conducted by EMB-Central Luzon on water samples from the Meycauayan, Marilao and Obando rivers showed that their water quality exceeded the DENR standard for dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen demand.

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