By NITZ ARANCON and LITO RULONA, Correspondents
THE only thing that’s keeping the Cagayan de Oro Water District and Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc. together is the controversial contract they signed in 2005. Both want out.
COWD general manager Rachel Beja is waiting for a court to decide on the water district’s petition for the annulment of the 12-year old contract.
She revealed that the petition was filed by the COWD in 2009 based on the advice of the Commission on Audit that year.
State auditors, according to Beja, found discrepancies in the COWD-Rio Verde deal.
But Beja said COWD’s hands would remained tied until the court voids the controversial contract.
In the same way, she said, Rio Verde cannot stop supplying 40 thousand cubic meters per day to the COWD because that is stated in the contract.
Beja said Rio Verde’s failure to deliver 40 cubic meters per day to COWD since Sept. 25 was a violation of the contract.
She however said the problem was that there is no penalty clause in the contract.
“Violation kana sa kontrata apan malisod lang kay ang sanction niana karon wala ako’y makita nga penalty clause sa maong kontrata. Kana usa sa kakulangon sa maong kontrata,” she said.
Rio Verde wants out, too. Its senior vice president for operation, Joffrey Hapitan, said Rio Verde submitted a notice of pre-termination of contract to the COWD this Aug. 5.
Hapitan said Rio Verde now wants to supply treated water to the COWD without a contract.
He said the notice was submitted even before COWD and the Manny Pangilinan-owned Metropac Water Investment Corp. signed a joint venture agreement to boost the city’s water supply.
Hapitan said, “Gusto na pud kami makabuhi niini nga kontrata kay nahikot man kami niini. Maayo nang mag-supply ta ug tubig nga walay contract, kay kanang magpalit di-ay ta ug tubig sa mga water refilling stations, na-a ba di-ay nay kontrata?” Hapitan asked rhetorically.
Hapitan said the contract also prevented Rio Verde from increasing the bulk water rate. Since 2007, he said, Rio Verde has been charging COWD P10.45 cubic meter.
Mayor Oscar Moreno meanwhile said he has asked Metropac to speed up the processing of all legal requirements so that it could help in improving the city’s supply of treated water.
“Ang Metropac wala pay ilang legal duty sa COWD kay wala pa man sila makasulod in a formal way, mao nang ako silang gitawagan ug gi-hangyo nga dali-a na ninyo,” he said.
The water crisis, he said, was a result of COWD’s deterioration through the years, the reason it failed to cope with the city’s development.
“Mao baya na nga kon utility company ka, you are given a franchise. Ang franchise is called certificate of public convenience. Na, public convenience diay nang walay tubig?” Moreno asked rhetorically.
He said he would meet with COWD officials and directors this week, and tell them about the need for a “massive reorganization” in the water district, from the management down to its operations section.
“Human sa reorganization, kanang privatization, musunod ra na,” Moreno said.
Beja said COWD learned it lesson from its “costly learning experience” with Rio Verde that it made sure there was a penalty clause in its agreement with Metropac if the Pangilinan firm fails to deliver.
“Kini simbako kung mahitabo na usab, sa bag-o nga kontrata, aduna nay penalty clause nga magbayad sila maong panghitabo,” she said.