Dumping waste at Laguna Lake comes cheap

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    THE Commission on Audit is putting the squeeze on the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) to collect P144.2 million from business establishments caught dumping dirty water into Laguna Lake.

    Government auditors said the LLDA merely collected P22.5million in 2019 when the correct amount should have been P166.7 million.

    They noted that under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order No. 2016-08 the allowable biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) effluent standard for Manila Bay is 30 milligram per liter (30mg/L).

    This was adopted in LLDA Memorandum Circular No. 2017-05 setting a fee of P5.00 per kilogram if the water discharge is “within effluent standards” and P30.00 per kilogram is in excess of the limit.

    “Verification of selected assessment/collections of EUF (environmental user fee) …disclosed incorrect/under assessments resulting in under collection of wastewater discharge fee …at an estimated amount of P144.205 million,” the audit team said.

    Citing an unnamed business establishment, the COA said the registered BOD component went as high was 81mg/L or almost triple the allowable maximum of 30mg/L but the LLDA only collected P5/kg.

    Likewise, up to June 6, 2018 it was found that the LLDA collected the fee based on the firm’s self-declared BOD.

    However, reassessment of the discharge from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 revealed that the pollutant content was much higher than what was declared and yet the LLDA charged no penalty.

    “Aside from the incorrect rate used, it was also noted that the Authority failed to collected the surcharge due to misdeclaration of BOD loading of the establishment,” the audit team noted.

    The COA warned that LLDA’s laxity in enforcing its own policies on the assessment of EUF may encourage other establishments to ignore the rules and put the Laguna Lake in worse condition.

    It stressed that the LLDA should strictly implement the collection of correct fees for environmental violators to compel compliance with the acceptable BOD levels.

    Replying to the audit finding, the LLDA management said that it will “wait for the official reply of the DENR” to the appeal of the establishments before issuing a final computation of the correct EUF.