LOCAL water utility Davao City Water District (DCWD) and power producer Hedcor Inc. have finally formalized their agreement on the joint use of Tamugan River, after several years of squabbling.

A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed by the two parties at Marco Polo Davao on Thursday afternoon, one day after they met to iron out the technicalities of what they described as "win-win" solution.

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But even two parties already reached an agreement, the Watershed Code of the city, which remains to be in effect, has not yet been amended by the City Council.

The Watershed Code prohibits the construction or putting up of any utility in the city’s two rivers that have been declared as watershed areas.

Environmental groups, led by Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao and the Tamugan Farmers Association (Tafa), will hold a protest action against plans to amend the Watershed Code to solve power crisis in time for the commemoration of the World Water Day and Earth Hour on Saturday.

"We urge the Davao City Council to stand by the watershed code and the principles governing its drafting to preserve our remaining fresh water resource and surrounding land and forests of our city," said Francis Morales, convener of Panalipdan.

He recounted that as of early December last year, the City Council has denied Hedcor's appeal for a favorable endorsement.

The "win-win" solution on who has the right to utilize Tamugan River was offered by Hedcor in early February, which DCWD immediately studied.

In an interview with DCWD spokesperson Imelda Magsuci, she said the proposal of Hedcor conceded with the requests that the water utility had earlier made.

"First, they will no longer be diverting water from the Talomo river, second the structures for the hydro power plant of Hedcor will be placed at a lower elevation compared to the structure of DCWD," Magsuci said. "What we have been opposing is the diversion [that] will hamper the recharge of our ground waters."

DCWD General Manager Rhodora Gamboa and Hedcor President Rene Ronquillo signed the MOA.

But Panalipdan cautioned the planned hydropower plants within the Tamugan Panigan watersheds will just end up like the Pulangi IV and Agus dams, whose power generation decreased by hundred folds due to government neglect, siltation, and the inevitable impact of climate change, like the current dry spell the country is facing.

The group reminded city councilors with regard the committee hearing wherein the DCWD's surface water development project was suspiciously kowtowing to the eventual privatization of the public water utility.

"We have long warned that despite the DCWD's seeming opposition, it is only waiting for a favorable deal with Hedcor before it surrenders to a compromise. The danger with DCWD's project is that it operates from the build to operate transfer (BOT) and from acquiring millions of loan in order to fund its project thus leading to its privatization," Morales said. (CPM/With NCB)