AN OFFICIAL of the Cagayan de Oro City Water District (COWD) said she welcomes the intent of some city councilors to take part in the legal tussle between the COWD and its bulk water supplier, Rio Verde Water Consortium, Inc. (RVWCI).

"Personally, I welcome any intervention especially from our lawmakers duly chosen by the majority of city's constituents," Engineer Rachel Beja, COWD's general manager, said.

Represented by lawyer James Judith II, councilors Teodulfo Lao Jr., Eric Salcedo, and Reuben Daba last Tuesday, November 7, filed a motion to intervene to ask the court to allow them to become a party to the case between COWD and RVWCI.

A lawsuit following allegations of anomalies in the 2004 bulk water supply contract between COWD and RVWCI is presently being heard at Branch 38 of the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental.

The case was recently cited by COWD as one of the reasons for turning down a request by RVWCI for a rate hike.

RVWCI wanted the COWD to pay P16.35 per cubic meter from P10.45 per cubic meter beginning November 1 to supposedly bankroll the rehabilitation of its facilities.

RVWCI had told COWD that damage on its pipes is causing it to have trouble supplying bulk water to COWD, hence the water crisis in the city’s western side in the past weeks.

Councilor Salcedo also called on Beja, along with the entire board of directors of the COWD, to resign for entering into a new contract with a new water supplier that will, he said, also result in a potential water rate increase.

Beja dismissed the calls for her resignation.

The COWD earlier this year entered into an agreement with MetroPac Water Investments Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), for the supply of 100, 000 cubic meters per day of treated bulk water to COWD.

The agreement has a term of 30 years, renewable for another 20 years, and involves, aside from the supply of up to 100,000 cubic meters of treated bulk water per day, the construction of transmission lines and the rehabilitation of the Camaman-an Reservoir to supply the COWD, which currently has about 90,000 service connections.

Beja had told the City Council that to fulfill its obligation to COWD, MetroPac can either buy water to sell to the COWD, lease the property of someone with the facilities to supply treated bulk water to COWD, or build or purchase the facilities that are already presently supplying bulk water to COWD.

Salcedo said based on his computations, the city’s water consumers will have to pay P32 per cubic meter if the COWD purchases its bulk water at P16 per cubic meter.

At present, Salcedo said consumers are paying about P21 per cubic meter of tap water as the COWD buys its bulk water at P10.45 per cubic meter from RVWCI.

"So kung ako gabayad ug P2,000 monthly sa tubig, muabot siya ug over P3,000 sa bag-o na pricing," Salcedo said.

An influential member of the Citizens Watch for Good Governance (CWGG)has also added his voice in the growing clamor for the resignation of the board of the directors of COWD.

Lawyer Antonio Soriano, CWGG convenor, said the chairman of the board should have the political will to resolve the prevailing water problem which has been adversely affecting consumers for the past weeks.

Soriano said appointees who have done nothing good for COWD and to its concessionaires should also resign to pave the way for a new set of qualified and credible board members.

"This is also my recommendation all the board nga involved kaniadto sa pagpirmahay pa lang sa kontrata tali sa COWD ug sa water supplier nga Rio Verde ug katong mga appointees nga walay trabaho must resign and then let new appointments nga based on merits nga reliable and credible ug dili lang magdepende sa mayor," Soriano said.

Soriano said the water service provider has become politicized and is being “poorly and incompetently managed.”

Soriano, the former city vice mayor, said the water shortage and the quandary over legal issues between the COWD and its bulk water supplier can somehow be straighten out by strengthening the COWD.

"One of the solutions is to strengthen COWD dili magdepende sa Rio Verde ug sa Pangilinan group (MetroPac) kay these people do not have concern for CDO," Soriano said.

Soriano also lauded the efforts of the City Council for stepping in the fiasco but said Mayor Oscar Moreno needs to act as well in behalf of his constituents.

"Maayo ang lakang sa City Council kay nagpakabana man sila to protect the consumers but what about the city mayor? It has to be a collective effort of all stakeholders," Soriano said.

Meanwhile, Engineer Bienvenido Batar Jr, COWD's assistant general manager, said the court is set to issue a resolution on the nullification case with RVWCI next month, or early next year.

"After gyud ma-nullify, ang MetroPac na dayon ang mo-supply sa tubig starting next year," Batar said.