GOOD NEWS. Metropolitan Cebu Water District chairman Jose Daluz III has announced that the water district will soon secure the necessary permits to install pipelines in areas of Cebu City, particularly in the mountain barangays. Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, said there was a need to expedite the processing of pending permits so the water district can start with excavation works. Meanwhile, Daluz urged the Local Water Utilities Administration to heed the second opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, which found its partial takeover of the water district last March 15 invalid. /
GOOD NEWS. Metropolitan Cebu Water District chairman Jose Daluz III has announced that the water district will soon secure the necessary permits to install pipelines in areas of Cebu City, particularly in the mountain barangays. Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, said there was a need to expedite the processing of pending permits so the water district can start with excavation works. Meanwhile, Daluz urged the Local Water Utilities Administration to heed the second opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, which found its partial takeover of the water district last March 15 invalid. / AMPER CAMPAÑA

Raymond gives MCWD ‘go signal’

TO ADDRESS the water shortage due to the drought, Acting Cebu City Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia will expedite the processing of pending excavation permits of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD).

Garcia, in a news forum on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, emphasized the importance of issuing these permits as these will lay the groundwork for MCWD to install pipelines that will deliver water to constituents.

In a press conference on Tuesday, MCWD chairman Jose Daluz III said he has high confidence that the acting mayor will sign their excavation permits after an initial meeting with Garcia on Monday, May 13, during which the latter said the permits should be processed.

MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso said that only one of six excavation permits they submitted to the Cebu City Government has been signed and approved.

Donoso said that once these permits are issued they can start laying pipes in mountain barangays that have never been served by the water district.

He said civil works will last six months at the very least.

In the past, he said, they only need the approval of the Technical Infrastructure Committee. But now the excavation permit requires the approval of the city administrator.

Memorandum of agreement

Daluz said that once their applications are approved, they will start laying pipes in Barangays Cambinocot, Agsungot, Budlaan, Binaliw, Guba, Pulangbato and two other barangays he did not name.

He said the MCWD has a memorandum of agreement with these barangays for the establishment of road right-of-way for the pipe-laying works.

“This was a promise to them from us nga sa pagmugna sa Lusaran nga sila gyud ang makapahimulos sa tubig (that with the operation of the Lusaran water facility they will benefit from its water). Sila na noon ang naawahi (They’ve ended up being the last to be served),” Daluz said.

During the Openline news forum on Tuesday, Garcia stressed the importance of these excavation permits as these will allow the water district to lay pipes that will supply water directly to households.

Garcia said that he met with Donoso in the afternoon to discuss the permits.

“I want solutions, I want to see water regardless of who is sitting down there basta (as long as) that person can give me answers, and the person who can give me water that’s the person that I want to talk to,” he said.

In a chat message to SunStar Cebu, MCWD spokesperson Minerva Gerodias said that both the City Government and the water district will announce the details of the meeting once finalized.

In another development, Daluz urged the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to recognize the second opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) issued last May 9.

The OGCC said the LWUA’s partial takeover last March 15 was inconsistent with the provisions of Presidential Decree (PD) 198, particularly Sections 36 and 61(e), explained MCWD assistant general manager for administration Elson Englis.

The second opinion was signed by Solomon Hermosura, the government corporate counsel, and Owen Vidad, the government corporate attorney officer-in-charge for Team Environment and Water.

Englis said the LWUA has never furnished them with a copy of Resolution 35, which was the basis of the intervention, therefore the MCWD decided to maintain the status quo.

“LWUA did not file a case in court to enforce their rights and also we did not file a case in court to stop them because we are in the position of the MCWD, we are here,” Englis said.

He added that LWUA’s order to suspend Daluz and members of the board of directors (BOD) Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn Mae Seno and Donoso and replace them with an interim BOD and OIC general manager has created confusion and commotion in the water district that disrupted their operations last April.

Englis said the MCWD has not defaulted on its loan with the LWUA, while the water district has been providing monthly updates to the latter regarding their efforts to minimize non-revenue water (NRW).

In a separate interview during the Beyond the Headline, SunStar Cebu’s online news and commentary program, on Tuesday, Daluz said the MCWD has an outstanding loan of P12 million with the LWUA, of which the water district is paying a monthly amortization of around P55,000.

Reaffirmation

He said the OGCC’s second opinion reaffirmed the MCWD’s status quo that recognizes only the BOD headed by him.

He said the MCWD is currently facing various concerns and challenges that need immediate attention, particularly finding solutions to their ongoing high deficits in daily water production due to the continued drought.

When asked if he’d take any legal action against the LWUA, Daluz said that on behalf of the BOD, they would rather savor the peace and go on with their work.

“The feeling nga wala nay manghilabot nato (that no one will no longer harass us), especially nga ang (acting) mayor na kay si (that the acting mayor is) Raymond (Garcia) and we have na the OGCC opinion to stop LWUA and I think the men and women in our water district are very happy with this new development,” Daluz said.

Daluz expressed confidence that with Garcia as acting mayor, the issues and concerns between the City Government and the water district would be resolved.

He added that the OGCC is mandated under PD 242 to administratively settle or adjudicate any disputes between government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) like the MCWD and the LWUA.

“We can deduce from both opinions of OGCC, the first and the second, that the Local Water Utilities Administration is just a specialized lending institution and the takeover will always be based on the lending issue to protect them og daku kaayo og utang unya wala kabayad ang water district (if the water district took out a huge loan and was unable to pay),” Daluz said.

“It is not happening in the MCWD and that has never happened to MCWD,” he said.

LWUA Administrator John Moises Salonga, in a text message to SunStar Cebu, said the last paragraph of the OGCC’s second opinion stated that the opinion was based only on the information provided by the MCWD, as it did not have the side of the LWUA.

When SunStar Cebu tried to call Salonga for further clarification, he replied that he would send an official statement on the matter.

Last April 2, the OGCC released its first opinion in which it confirmed the LWUA’s power to partially intervene in a local water district but only in a limited capacity or when a local water district is at default.

However, both the MCWD and the LWUA had contradicting interpretations. / EHP

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