Ang isang gilid na bahagi ng Angat Dam. News Core file photo

CITY OF MALOLOS—The people of Bulacan is not giving up on its tight to collect a share in the national wealth over Metroplitan Warks and Sewerage System (MWSS) usage of Angat Dam waters as the provincial government is filing a 

motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court (SC) over its recently released decision stripping off the province of its rights in the said share in the national wealth tax. 

Gov. Daniel Fernando upon receipt of a copy of the SC’s decision on Monday, March 25 immediately ordered Provincial Legal Officer Gerard Nelson Manalo to ask the high court to reconsider and also to cite nunerous laws that provides for local government unit’s rights on national wealth and its collectible taxes. 

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 decision promulgated in October 2023 but was only released on March 22 by the high court en banc said the Court of Appeals erred when it affirmed on May 30, 2008 a June 3, 2005 Bulacan regional trial court ruling 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 resource,” 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.

Fernando said the provincial government of Bulacan has 15 days to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court. 

“Ang laki ng nawala sa atin dito in that form of share in the national wealth or taxes, aabot ito ng bilyon,” the governor told NEWS CORE and two other media members. 

“What does this decision means. Does it mean being a Bulakenyo driving in Quezon City or anywhere else loses your right of being a true blooded Bulakenyo because you went to other areas and direction. That because the national wealth or water have been impounded in Angat dam, it is no longer a national wealth where we could collect our share and taxes,” the governor told Inquirer in an interview on Tuesday at the Official Residence (OR) in this city after distributing Department of Social Welfare and Develoment’s financial assistance to more than 600 jeepney drivers and operators in the province through the initiative of Senator Imee Marcos. 

Manalo said 13 out of 14 justices of the SC ruled in favor of MWSS against Bulacan’s collection of its share from the national wealth over its usage of waters in Angat Dam which is in Bulacan. 

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

Manalo in phone interview on Tuesday, March 26 said their office personally received a copy of the 97-page high court ruling on March 25. 

The case stemmed from the complaint for specific performance/payment of national wealth share against MWSS filed by the provincial government of Bulacan through then Gov. Josefina Dela Cruz.

The Bulacan government said MWSS had been getting proceeds from the water resource of Angat Dam, which is located within its territorial jurisdiction.

It claimed MWSS must pay the local government a share of the utilization and development of national wealth.

However, the MWSS argued it was a nonprofit service utility created to provide water supply and a wastewater disposal system to Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces.

The MWSS added water stored in Angat Dam did not necessarily come from Bulacan as it was simply stored in the catchment.

As a man-made structure, the dam, according to the MWSS, does not fall within the scope of national wealth that would entitle a local government like Bulacan to a share in the proceeds derived from its utilization and development.

The Bulacan provincial government has been demanding payment from MWSS over Angat Dam usage since 1992. 

City of Malolos Mayor Christian Natividad who also expressed similar dismay said the province is placed on a huge loss out of that high court decision. 

He said he is not questioning the wisdom of the justices of the high court but being a Bulakenyo,l such ruling of the high court will serve as a precedent case among other local government units on issues and concerns about claim on its share in the national wealth. 

“This is bad. Where does the water was 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.