MANILA, Philippines - Two of Metro Manila's biggest water concessionaires are also its biggest polluters, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said Wednesday.
In an interview with ANC’s Headstart, the government official said both Manila Water, Inc. and Manila Water Co., Inc. and Maynilad Services, Inc. failed to implement water treatment facilities within a fixed period of time as prescribed in the Clean Water Act of 2004.
Republic Act 9275 mandates the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, through the east- and west-zone concessionaires, to provide water supply and sewerage facilities within 5 years from the implementation of the law.
Paje is apparently coming from the battle waged last year by his predecessor, former Environment Secretary Jose Atienza, Jr.
During the latter’s term, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources penalized the 3 parties a whopping P29.4 million for failing to comply with the law.
Paje said the two companies have a facility in place, but it has not been completed. He said waste-water is still being released, leading to the degradation of the Pasig River and Manila Bay.
The case is now before the Supreme Court.
Paje also revealed that only 12% of Metro Manila has a sewerage system in place. “This means, kapag dumumi ka, it will end up in Pasig River and Manila Bay,” he said.
This is even a smaller percentage compared to Kathmandu in Nepal, he added.
He noted the execution of an effective sewerage system is the job of both concessionaires.
“They frontloaded water [programs]…which is good. But I do not accept that, they should also frontload at the same time the sewerage system,” he said.
In a phone interview, Manila Water corporate communications chief Jeric Sevilla however noted that the firm’s concession area is already 16% covered as of 2009.
By the end of this year, the coverage will be up to 30%. Manila Water serves nearly 6 million people in 23 cities and municipalities.
“We have to remember that when Manila Water took over, the sewered area is only 3%,” he said.
He said now that 99% of the area has access to potable water, Manila Water can now focus on water treatment facilities.
Paje, who rose from the ranks, is also targeting other polluters, both big and small, by imposing the penalty of community service.
He said he is now in talks with local government officials to have them pass individual legislations requiring community service against polluters.
“This is being done in many countries. In fact, in Singapore, it was very successful. It’s harsher, they will publish your picture on the front page of a newspaper,” he said.
He laments not much has been done to control air pollution. He noted some motorists even bribe private emission testing centers (PETCs) to have their vehicles registered even without undergoing actual testing.