The collection could have been substantially higher had the Laguna Lake Development Authority refused to grant the requests for reduction of penalties of several erring establishments for lack of legal basis and supporting documents.
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LLDA scolded for P56.5-M reduction of penalties vs erring establishments
(Philstar.com) - July 14, 2018 - 6:10pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit has scolded the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) for reducing by P56.531 million the penalties it imposed against several establishments found to have been discharging wastewater in Laguna Lake.

In its audit report on the LLDA, the COA said that while the agency has posted a P44.642-million income from fines and penalties in 2017, the collection could have been substantially higher had the LLDA refused to grant the requests for reduction of penalties of several erring establishments for lack of legal basis and supporting documents.

“Substantial decrease/reduction in the amount of daily penalties imposed to some establishments/industries totaling P56.532 million were granted, either due to reduction of number of days of violation or the imposition of one-time penalty of P10,000.00,” the COA report read.

The audit body said the imposition of one-time penalty for several days of violation contravenes Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

The COA pointed out that under Section 28 of RA 9275, the prescribed penalty is not less than P10,000 nor more than P200,000 for every day of violation which “shall be increased by ten percent every two years to compensate for inflation and to maintain the deterrent function of such fines.”

“The one–time penalty imposition is not mentioned nor provided in the guidelines and regulations on the implementation of the fines and penalties adopted under RA 9275 and, thus, has no basis,” the COA said.

It said that out of the 11 randomly selected establishments with water pollution cases, four were found to have been imposed with one-time penalty of P10,000 each or a total of just P40,000 for inclusive violation period equivalent to 2,033 days.

The COA said that applying the rates of penalties prescribed under Section 28 of RA 9275, the corresponding amount of accumulated penalties of these four establishments should be P30.221 million.

Furthermore, the audit body said some establishments were also granted a decrease in penalties due to reduction in the number of days of violation despite their failure to submit supporting documents to validate their claims of non-discharge days that would dispute the LLDA's initial assessment.

“In the above cases, there was no discussion that the LLDA erred in computing the duration of violation based on initial computation to merit the reduction of daily penalties by reducing or correcting or adjusting number of days,” the COA said.

The 11 establishments mentioned in the report to have been given undue favor by the LLDA either though reduction of violation days or imposition of one-time penalty were Bonifacio Water Corporation, Universal Robina Corporation, BIG Philippines Corporation, El Jardin Presidente Condominium, Quezon Poultry and Livestock, Taytay Doctor’s Hospital Inc., SPI Corporation, Anonas LRT Center, Chowking-East Avenue, The Magnolia Residences and Miyoshi Technologies Phils. Inc.

During the exit conference with the audit body, the LLDA admitted that one-time fixed penalty was imposed against some establishment with pollution cases as the LLDA-Environmental Regulatory Department (ERD) failed to monitor their operations for more than one year.

The management also admitted that the reduction of violation days from the original assessment was a result of the LLDA Public Hearing Committee's “discretion in resolving the cases.”

In its rejoinder, the COA maintained that both practices of the LLDA lacked legal basis.

“It is our view, that the granting of one-time penalty of P10,000, equivalent to one-day penalty, for violation covering number of years, around 1 to 3 years is untenable, primarily because there is no provision in RA 9275 authorizing the grant thereof and that the lack or absence of compliance monitoring by LLDA-ERD is not a valid justification/ground for granting reduction of penalties,” the COA said.

“Considering that the computation of penalty provided in Section 28 of RA 9275 is clear and needs no further interpretation, it is our view that the basis for reduction in penalties should be clearly presented in the resolution of the cases, and that exercise of discretion should be avoided,” it added. — Elizabeth Marcelo

COMMISSION ON AUDIT REPORT LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
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