Espinoza: What’s in the MCWD?

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Espinoza Free Zone
Espinoza Free Zone

With the upsurge in temperature almost every day brought about by the El Niño phenomenon, the issue(s) at the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) also got hotter. I thought for a while everything was already settled after the interim board appointed by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) took over management.

I was wrong. The matter is not yet over even after embattled MCWD chairman Joey Daluz III confirmed LWUA’s takeover of the MCWD’s policy-making authority on March 15, 2024 and he even said he would abide by LWUA’s decision.

LWUA administrator Jose Moises Salonga wrote Daluz and MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso of the agency’s partial intervention per Resolution 35, s. of 2023 duly approved by the LWUA board of trustees in accordance with Presidential Decree (PD) 198, as amended.

The five board members are Daluz, Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno (appointed by the late mayor Edgardo Labella) and Danilo Ortiz and Earl Bonachita (appointed by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama). Resolution 35 directed them to cease and desist from exercising their functions during the period of LWUA’s intervention.

However, a few days later, Daluz, perhaps after conferring with his allies and some advisers, made a 90-degree turn and questioned the takeover.

Daluz and his board is sticking with the opinion that he sought from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), which stated that the LWUA could only intervene if the MCWD defaulted financially on its loan.

According to Daluz, the MCWD under his watch owes the LWUA only P13 million as it has been paying in advance the amount of P65,000 monthly. Daluz accused the LWUA of not following the opinion of the OGCC that it could only intervene if there was a loan default.

Even disturbing was the lockdown last April 15, exactly 30 days after the takeover of the interim board, that the Daluz board implemented through a board resolution, directing Donoso not to allow the entry of LWUA’s interim board and John Dx Lapid.

In the April 12 resolution, Daluz also directed Donoso to file the necessary criminal and administrative cases against members of the interim board for allegedly usurping authority and other related offenses.

It was reported that Lapid was appointed OIC general manager by the interim board on April 12, following the 90-day preventive suspension of Donoso, who allegedly refused to turn over documents on MCWD’s transactions and who failed to answer the five-day notice to explain his decision accordingly.

Amid the hullabaloo on the defiance of the Daluz-led board, LWUA Administrator Salonga broke his silence. He said the claim of Daluz that default only pertains to loans is merely their own interpretation that they are desperately peddling to the public, and we fear, to the governor and mayors.

He said the opinion of OGCC cited Section 61 of PD 198, or the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973, which talks of default in terms of payment of the principal or interest on a loan. The same section also provides that “default includes ‘other obligations to the Administration’ as another ground independent from the financial provisions.”

How “precious,” so to speak, are these transaction documents that Donoso allegedly refused to provide to the interim board despite its request? From the news report, the refusal of Donoso was the basis for his 90-day suspension, which he denied receiving.


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