City Council to probe termination of COWD manager

THE Cagayan de Oro city council is asking the committee on public utilities to look into the termination of Rachel Beja as general manager of Cagayan de Oro City Water District (COWD).

City Councilor Teodulfo Lao Jr., chairman of the committee on public utilities, said they are seeking to bring together members of the COWD board of directors and Beja to try to resolve the "squabble" within the utility.

"Nakikita natin kung halimbawa ito lumala (We noticed that if this issue worsens) or if these bickerings or squabble within sa management ng COWD hindi ma-settle, tayong mga consumers ang maapektuhan nyan dahil baka ang water services hindi matutukan or hindi na mabigyang pansin, yung mga problema sa pag delivery ng mga tubig sa bawat households (the consumers will be affected due to the possibility that the utility might ignore the problems, especially the delivery of water to the households)," Lao said.

The board, citing loss of trust and confidence, unceremoniously fired Beja on February 21.

The board said Beja disrespected them when she asked the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) to review some provisions of the contract between the COWD and Metro Pacific Water Investments Corporation without the knowledge of the board; attended the management planning conference in Cebu City and informed the board only after the plane tickets have been purchased; and held a thanksgiving party without informing the board.

Lao, for his part, said these reasons were not enough to terminate Beja.

He said the board should not take it against Beja for requesting the OGCC to review the MetroPac contract.

"At least maging transparent at tsaka malaman ng management ng (it will be transparent to the management of the) COWD whether itong (this) joint venture agreement is advantageous on the part of the COWD, especially to the consumers, or disadvantageous ba itong contract. So depende yan sa findings ng (it depends on the findings of the) Office of the Government Corporate Counsel at wala namang dapat na igagalit (and there's nothing to be angry about it). Kung meron tayong itinatago yan ang dahilan na magagalit ka (But if she was hiding something from them, that's the time they can be mad at her)," Lao said.

He added that the investigation his committee will conduct will help shed the light on the "real" reason for Beja's termination as he hinted that there might be "bigger reasons" behind it.

At present, Bienvenido Batar Jr. serves as the new general manager of COWD.

Last year, Lao and fellow councilors Enrico Salcedo and Reuben Daba, together with lawyer James Judith, asked the Philippine Competition Commission to investigate whether COWD and Metropac violated Republic Act 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act, a law that prohibits “anti-competitive agreements, abuses of dominant positions, and mergers and acquisitions that limit, prevent and restrict competition” which can be detrimental to consumers.

They believed that the agreement between the COWD and Metropac has accidentally allowed the formation of a water cartel that may eventually dictate the amount consumers would have to shell out every month for clean water.
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