Daluz board out; LWUA takes over MCWD

MCWD building.
MCWD building.Google Street View

THE Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) has implemented the takeover of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District’s (MCWD) policy-making authority effective Friday, March 15, 2024 for a period of six months.

In a letter addressed to MCWD chairman Jose Daluz III and MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso, LWUA administrator Jose Moises Salonga announced the partial intervention, which is authorized by Resolution No. 35, s. of 2023 duly approved by the LWUA Board of Trustees in accordance with Presidential Decree No. 198, as amended.

Salonga said he was sending his representative, Deputy Administrator Eileen L. dela Vega, to oversee the installation Friday of the following LWUA officers whom he has designated as members of the Interim Board of Directors (BOD) of MCWD for a period of six months.

The interim members of the BOD are Maria Rosan D. Perez, and engineers Noel A. Samonte and Anabelle C. Gravador.

“Under Resolution No. 35, s. 2023 as supported by Resolution No. 36, s. 2012, all members of the current Regular Board of Directors shall be set aside and shall cease and desist from exercising their functions during the period of LWUA’s intervention,” Salonga said in the letter.

In a phone interview on Friday, MCWD chairman Jose Daluz III confirmed the implementation of the takeover of its policy-making authority, saying that the five board members—Daluz, Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno appointed by the late mayor Edgardo Labella, and lawyers Danilo Ortiz and Earl Bonachita appointed by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama—would abide by LWUA’s decision.

“We will abide by the order of the LWUA. I think that is for the best interest of the MCWD,” Daluz said.

Asked what will happen after six months of intervention, Daluz said he does not know yet if LWUA will finally remove them.

Daluz said the intervention also applies to the board appointed by Rama.

“All of us five board members, the two appointed by Mike, the three appointed by the late mayor Edgardo Labella will step down and let LWUA function as the board. I will abide,” Daluz said.

Since Oct. 31, 2023, there have been two boards in the MCWD, one led by Daluz and the other led by retired Major General Melquiades Feliciano.

On that day, Rama appointed Feliciano, Aristotle Batuhan and Nelson Yuvallos to replace Daluz and board members Pato and Seno, whom he had ousted on Aug. 17, 2023.

Existing board members Ortiz and Bonachita, who were not fired with the trio, renewed their oath, as they supported Rama’s appointment of the board’s three new members.

In a press conference on Nov. 7, 2023, then-City legal officer and now Budget Officer Jerone Castillo said the City had requested a certificate of no objection to the trio’s termination from the LWUA board of trustees. However, the response letter, dated Oct. 17, 2023, received on Nov. 6, 2023, did not come from the board of trustees, but from the administrator.

Castillo questioned the legality of LWUA’s letter, noting that it came from the administrator rather than the board of trustees, as requested by the City government. He argued that without the board’s approval, the letter holds no legal weight and is merely an opinion.

The LWUA letter, signed by lawyers Vicente Homer Revil and Roberto San Andres, asserted that local executives lack the authority to remove the chairperson and members of the board of directors of a water district. Citing Section 7 of PD 198, LWUA said that upon forming a water district, local governments lose ownership, supervision and control over the district, except as provided therein.

LWUA also referenced DILG Memorandum Circular 2016-146, which emphasizes that water districts are autonomous agencies independent of local governments and should operate without hindrance or interference, but with maximum support and assistance.

On Feb. 19, 2024, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed lawyer Salonga as the new administrator of the LWUA, the regulatory body overseeing water districts in the country.


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