THE 18th Davao City council approved on second reading Monday, October 9, the application for allowable use of land for the construction of a water treatment facility, which has a hydroelectric component, that will be used for the Tamugan Bulk Water Project.

After four weeks of discussion, the council gave the nod to the joint resolution of the City Development Council and Local Zoning Board on Adjustments and Appeals relative the application of Apo Agua Infrastructura Inc. (AAII) for the establishment of a Water Treatment Facility as a component of Davao City Bulk Water Supply Project in Barangay Gumalang, Baguio District, Davao City.

The item was only passed after the applicant satisfied the queries of Davao City Councilor Jesus Joseph Zozobrado.

Zozobrado questioned the AAII whether or not it will sell the power generated from Tamugan River to other companies. He also asked whether they are allowed to utilize and develop hydropower facility in the area as it fell under a conservation area, identified as excluded areas of development with their contract with the Department of Energy.

He read that Section 4.1 of the Hydroelectric resources contract signed between Apo Agua and the Department of Energy states that the AAII has exclusive rights to explore, develop the hydropower resources does not include watershed area.

But Manuel M. Orig, AAII director, clarified that Section 4.1 meant that their company has the exclusive right to explore develop and utilize the hydroelectric sources applies only to non-conservation areas, and therefore for conservation areas, other entities can also apply to develop hydroelectric power plants.

"In other words, our exclusive rights to develop hydroelectric power plant apply to non-conservation areas but with respect to conservation areas other entities can also apply and develop hydroelectric power plants," Orig said.

Zozobrado then required Apo Agua to seek a letter and a statement from the Department of Energy (DOE) that says the meaning of the phrase "it does not include watershed area" refers only to the AAII's exclusive right to explore and utilize the area, which Orig said they will furnish.

When Zozobrado requested for the AAII that whatever power generated from the Tamugan River will be for the water treatment plant and not for sale, Orig at first manifested that it will be hard for them but later on agreed to issue a manifestation.

"Your honor, that requested manifestation is hard for us to manifest because under the articles of corporation, the primary purpose of the business is to develop and manage infrastructure projects but under that definition of primary purpose, it therefore includes also the right to sell excess power to other parties other than AAII but in any event, we would like to manifest or clarify that at present time, we do not have any intention to sell power to outside parties but when the time comes, we are in position to do, so we will come to the city council to apply authority or endorsement to sell excess power to the other parties. This is a choice of our source being renewable, we should not waste opportunity for the city of Davao to capitalize on this resource," Orig said.

With this manifestation, a recess was declared and councilors huddled together in the center of plenary.

Orig was once again given a chance to speak and reiterated his position that AAII has the exclusive right to explore develop and utilize resources up to 2.2 kilowatts for its bulk water hydro project, in accordance with the contract with DOE but does not include the watershed area.

Zozobrado was convinced to the manifestation of Orig and voted yes to the item.

During the nominal voting for the committee report, which was approved by 20 other councilors, Zozobrado clearly stated the conditions of his vote, saying the council should have a furnished copy of DOE manifestation and that Orig's manifestation that the energy generated from the facility will only for the purpose of the bulk water facility should be considered in the "whereas" of the ordinance.

Zozobrado said he is hopeful that the provisions of the watershed code, especially the zoning and protection of the environment, will be observed.