Bulacan officials led by Governor Daniel Fernando (center) and Vice Gov. Alexis Castro (on his right) and Provincial Administrator Maria Antonette Constantino (on his left) with all the Provincial Board Members and ranking Capitol personnel during Thursday’s filing before the Supreme Court of the motion for reconsideration on its unfavorable decision over Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) usage of Angat dam’s water. Photo by the Provincial Public Affairs Office

CITY OF MALOLOS—Bulacan may have lost more than a billion worth of revenues from the recent high court decision stripping off the province of its right to collect its share in the national wealth tax over Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) usage of Angat Dam waters.

City of Malolos Mayor Christian Natividad confirmed to reporters on Friday the said huge amount of losses the provincial government incurred from the March 23 released decision of the Supreme Court (SC) en banc which ruled  that “appropriated dam water not to be considered national wealth, and therefore, not subject to the national wealth tax”.

Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando joined by Vice Gov. Alexis Castro and all the officials of the provincial government of Bulacan (PGB) who filed an MR before the high court on Thursday told reporters in an interview three weeks ago at his Official Residence (OR) in this city that what the provincial government of Bulacan (PGB) failed to collect and generate in the form of its share in the national wealth tax because of the said high court decision may have reached up to more than a billion worth already.  

“We don’t have the computation yet, but it could already reach more than a billion today,” Fernando said.

The PGB then under the term of former Gov. Josefina Dela Cruz has been claiming nearly P700 million worth in share in the national wealth tax from MWSS over the usage of Angat dam waters from 1992 until 2003 when the civil cases were filed before a Bulacan regional trial court.

Since 2003, it has been 21 years today.

“That would already be worth billions,” Natividad also told reporters.  “I was part of a team which was fighting for the Bulacan’s claim from MWSS that time, the Bulacan court and Court of Appeals rulings were supposed to be implemented that time,”Natividad said. 

The SC En Banc made the decision on October 3, 2023 but only released it on March 23. ruled that “appropriated dam water not to be considered national wealth, and therefore, not subject to the national wealth tax”. 

The said decision reversed both the 2005 and 2008 Bulacan court and Court of Appeals respective decisions in favour of the said nearly P700 million worth PGB claims of its share in the national wealth tax over MWSS usage of Angat dam waters.  

Fernando said the ruling of the high court is not in consonance with Article 386 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code of 1991 over the Share in the Proceeds from the Development and Utilization of the National Wealth which states that “Local Government Units (LGUs) shall have an equitable share in the proceeds derived from the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas, including sharing the same with the inhabitants by way of direct benefits”. 

“Mula sa bulubundukin ng Dona Remedios Trinidad hanggang sa sa Yungib ng Kasarinlan ng San Miguel, Bulacan, patungo sa mga ilog na malayang dumadaloy sa bawat bayan ng lalawigan patungo sa Look ng Maynila — hindi maikakaila na ang Dakilang Lalawigan ng Bulacan ay nilipos ng biyaya ng Inang Kalikasan. Bilang Punong Lalawigan at tagapangalaga ng kagalingan ng lahat, tungkulin kong tiyakin na ang mga mamamayan ng Bulakan at makakabahagi sa kaloob na ito ng Dakilang Lumikha. Dalangin natin na marapatin nawa ng ating Kataas-taasang hukuman na muling suriin ang kasong ito in consideration of the points presented in our Motion for Reconsideration,” (From the mountains of Dona Remedios Trinidad to the Cave of Freedom in Biak-na-Bato Republic in San Miguel, Bulacan to the rivers that smoothly flow to each of the towns and cities of Bulacan going to Manila—it is undeniable that the Great Province of Bulacan is so much blessed with national wealth and resources. That being the Governor and the one in-charge in leadership and good governance, it is my duty and obligation for the people of Bulacan to partake from what the Almighty God has given our province Bulacan. We pray that the high court takes another look into the case and to make a reconsideration of the points presented in our Motion for Reconsideration), Fernando said in a press conference at Rizal Park Hotel in Manila, just after the filing of the MR in the SC. 

Natividad joined by fellow Bulacan mayors in the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Bulacan Chapter headed by Bocaue Mayor Eduardo Villanueva Jr. expressed their full support to Fernando and Castro and all the provincial government officials in appealing the said decision of the high court.    

Natividad expressed similar dismay over the said SC ruling. “This is bad. Where is the water extracted?? It is in our own province. This is a different way of evading payment and collection of due taxes to local government units or host localities,” the mayor said. 

Villanueva told NEWS CORE in a text message reply on Friday that the LMP is absolutely in support of the move of Fernando. 

“Absolutely, LMP supports the MR of PGB to SC. We really should partake in the national wealth in MWSS usage of Angat dam waters because it is within the jurisdiction of the province of Bulacan”. 

 SC decision

The high court has ruled that dam water is an appropriated water already removed from natural resources, and thus, can no longer be subject to national wealth tax.

The high court en banc ruling said the Court of Appeals erred when it affirmed on May 30, 2008 a June 3, 2005 Bulacan regional trial court decision which found MWSS liable to pay the provincial government of Bulacan a share in the utilization and development of national wealth.

“The moment that water from Angat River is already appropriated and impounded into the Angat Dam, it ceases to form part of natural resources,” the high tribunal said in a decision penned by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting.

The Supreme Court effectively granted the MWSS petition for review on certiorari as it reversed and set aside the said 2008 decision of the appellate court in favor of Bulacan province.

“What does this decision mean? Does it mean being a Bulakenyo driving in Quezon City or anywhere else loses my right of being a true blooded Bulakenyo because I went to other areas and direction. That is because the national wealth or water has been impounded in Angat dam, it is no longer a national wealth where we could collect our share and taxes,” the governor told reporters at the OR.

Atty. Gerard Nelson Manalo, head of the PGB Legal Office said 13 out of 14 justices of the SC ruled in favor of MWSS. 

Angat Dam is located in the villages of Norzagaray and Dona Remedios Trinidad (DRT) towns in the Sierra Madre mountain range.