Saturday, 04 May 2024 04:29


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Mayor Rolando "Klarex" Uy issued an Executive Order last Wednesday declaring Cagayan de Oro City under state of emergency after a private bulk water supplier ordered to cut off supply to the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD).
Executive Order 196-2024 dated May 1, 2024 activated the Incident Monitoring Team to conduct rapid damage assessment and needs analysis to determine the impact of the cutting off of the bulk water supply by the Cagayan de Oro Bulkwater Inc. (COBI). It placed the IMT under the direction and supervision of the Special Task Force for Water Supply and Distribution which was organized last month.
Upon learning of the letter by Cobi asking Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc. (RVWCI) to cut off bulkwater supply to the COWD around midnight last Tuesday, Mayor Uy mobilized the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) to secure water supply lines of Rio Verde.
The water supply chain of Cagayan de Oro has become peculiar starting in 2017 when the COWD entered into an agreement with Cobi as its main bulk water supplier, with minimum volume of 80,000 cubic meters a day. Cobi however is actually serving as a middle party in the supply chain as it does not have bulk water production and treatment facilities, and supply lines. COBI relies on Rio Verde for treated water from the surface water of Bubunawan River in Baungon town, Bukidnon, and then sell this to COWD.
In a special session called around 6 o'clock in the evening of May 1, 2024, the City Council passed a resolution affirming the executive order issued by Mayor Klarex Uy declaring the city under state of emergency. The City Council also passed four other resolutions related to the water emergency.
Resolution 2924-720 was passed "urgently requesting the Cagayan de Oro City Water District to make emergency purchase of "Bulk Water Supply from Rio Verde Water." Consortium, Inc., South Balibago Resources Inc., JE Hydro and Bio-energy Corporation and the Mindanao Cooperative Water Service Federation. The four water suppliers are current water service providers to areas which are unserved and underserved by the COWD.
City Councilor took turns lambasting the Cobi for alleged "greed" in asking its main water supplier Rio Verde to cut off water supply to the COWD. Majority Floor Leader Ed Cabanlas said before the special session that the measures they are passing is historic as it would finally address with fortitude and political will the water problem which hounded the city in the last two decades.
City Councilor Girlie Balaba emphasized that water is a human rights and government if obligated to provide clean, accessible and affordable water to the people. "While government had ceded to the private sector the delivery of water to the people, when it failed, government must intervene," Balaba said.
Councilor James Judith said that cutting off the city's water supply is tantamount to committing an act of terrorism and violation of human rights.
In his declaration of State of Emergency, Mayor Uy invoked Section 16 or the General Welfare provision of the Local Government Code. Under a state of emergency, Kag. Judtih, a lawyer said, the city government can exercise its police powers which is an inherent power of government to exercise reasonable control over persons and property within its jurisdiction in the interest of the general security, health, safety, morals and welfare of the people, except when legally prohibited.
Furthermore, Councilor Cabanlas lambasted Cobi's seeming greed when it wrote Rio Verde to cut off supply the COWD -- actually the people of Cagayan de Oro, while at same time telling its supplier that it "will continue to comply with its obligation to pay RVWCI the cost of the Minimum Contracted Water Demand."
The water crises hounding the city is caused by the collection of COBI of P479 million from COWD. This represents the differential of the automatic price increase every three years by Cobi in their 30-year contract with COWD.
COWD is not acknowledging the debt, saying it cannot perform the obligation to pay increased rates because of force majeure - citing the Covid 19 pandemic, where they registered net losses.
Mayor Klarex Uy also opposes the automatic escalation of prices every three years, saying this provision in the contract is onerous and should be reformed. "I am not against Cobi or any water supplier. I am against the increase every three years. Maybe they can ask for increase every five or even 10 years," Mayor Uy said.
He also clarified that his order to place the city under state of emergency is not siding with any parties of the controversial water contract but to protect the general welfare of the people to safe, clean and quality water. (CMO press release)