Luczon: Water mafia

SUNDAY morning when water supply in the western part of Cagayan de Oro experienced, yet again, another sudden cut-off. Residents fear that it can be a new chapter of prolonged agony of not having a water supply for a week just like what happened last September. As usual, the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) was left in the dark until its contracted bulk water supplier Rio Verde Water Corporation, Inc. sent a notice that it had an “emergency” maintenance.

“This is due to an emergency leak repair of RVWCI's river- crossing pipe. Estimatd time of completion is 7 a.m. while supply to COWD's TOP would be by 8:30 a.m.,” one of COWD’s advisory promised, but in actuality, water came back around 10:30 a.m. or later.

To simplify the relationship between COWD and Rio Verde, the latter was contracted by COWD to supply bulk water as the private company stated that Rio Verde was “organized in response to the dire need of the local water districts and LGU’s (local government units) to outsource bulk water supply from private entrepreneurs,” based on its company profile.
The COWD-Rio Verde partnership was established in between 2005 and 2006, and by it began operations in January 2007, which according to the accompany, has a capacity to produce potable or treated water of about 150,000 cubic meters a day, with a start-up contract cost worth P1.73 billion.

“The source of the raw water is the Bubunauan River at Pualas, Baungon, Bukidnon. The infiltration gallery serves as the preliminary water treatment system. The collected clear water is pumped to the chemical treatment system to produce (World Health Organization) WHO-standard quality potable water. The water is treated with coagulants/flocculants and chlorine. The potable water then flows by gravity to the off-take point through the 0.90 meter pipeline stretching 6 kilometers. The total length of pipeline is eight (8) kilometers.”

So the role of COWD now is that, it outsourced treated bulk water from Rio Verde; as COWD maintains the dealings with the concessionaires, the people, in providing services and collection of fees. But over the years, delivery of services and non-compliance to the signed contract, and not to mention the change of political leadership of the local government, has led to different cases being filed between COWD and Rio Verde in the trial courts. Both parties claimed they wanted out of the contract already, and they are only waiting for a court issuance.

Until the local government found another bulk water supply contractor in the name of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) in the middle of this year. Unlike Rio Verde’s 150,000 cubic meter daily water supply, the new supplier was awarded the 100 million liters per day (MLD) Bulk Water Project after undergoing a comparative challenge as required by the 2013 Revised Joint Venture Guidelines of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda). But this will not roll out with an impending increase of P16.35 per cubic meter.

And also until recently, Rio Verde reiterated their demand for an increase of the same Metropac rate of P16.35. Take note that despite the two “mutually agreed” to terminate the contract, but it has yet to be executed by the trial court especially in discussing legal arrangements, thus, its partnership is in status quo.

In the recent communique from Rio Verde’s senior vice president, Joffrey Hapitan, he mentioned that Rio Verde was having a difficulty addressing operational challenges due to the denial of COWD of their proposal for a rate increase.

“Please be advised that COWD's continued refusal to accept and heed Rio Verde's fair and reasonable request for price increase from present rate to P16.35/m3, will unavoidably result to distruption and stoppage of bulk water supply to COWD. COWD will need to be ready to take full responsibility for the ensuing repercussions,” Hapitan said, addressing to the public through a letter.

The tantrums of these hotshots in the water supply industry tremendously affected hundreds of thousands of concessionaires in the city. While they were pointing fingers on who’s to be blamed or not, both COWD and Rio Verde allowed the people to suffer, and that in itself is a clear violation of a basic human right.

May we suggest, any lawyers out there to simply slap these water hoarders with class suits, and may the city council and all those sectors concerned, come up with actions that will prevent this kind of tragedy to ever happen again.

(nefluczon@gmail.com)
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