By NITZ ARANCON
UNKNOWN to many, Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc. and the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned Metro Pacific Water Investments Corp. have already signed a management and operations contract, the lawyer of the councilors who filed separate cases against the two companies said over the weekend.
Lawyer James Judith said he learned of the contract between the two companies from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Judith’s information suggests that Metro Pacific, which signed a joint venture agreement with the Cagayan de Oro Water District in October, is not out to compete with the present bulk water supplier, a firm owned by Palawan Gov. Jose “Pito” Alvarez.
Earlier, a COWD official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for any of the firms, said it appeared that Metro Pacific has bought Rio Verde, saying that the Pangilinan firm has started “absorbing” Rio Verde’s staff.
Judith revealed the information a day after Rio Verde cut the water supply again on Friday supposedly because it had to repair a pipe near the Pelaez Bridge in Taguanao, Barangay Indahag.
The company’s senior vice president, Engr. Joffrey Hapitan, earlier wrote to COWD, warning the water district that its failure to pay over P16 per cubic meter from the present rate of P10.45 would mean a disruption of the supply of treated water. COWD rejected the demand.
As ot is now, Rio Verde can do whatever it wants to about the supply of treated water to the city, and COWD won’t be able to do anything about it.
COWD general manager Rachel Beja showed helplessness as Rio Verde cut the bulk water supply intended for the western part of the city and Opol, Misamis Oriental on Friday supposedly because it had to repair again a pipe in Taguanao.
Beja said the problem on the water supply security has become a serious and it has hurt COWD’s reputation.
She said the COWD management cannot do anything but refer the matter to its lawyers, explaining that they do not want to do anything that could complicate its pending case against Rio Verde for the nullification of their decade-old contract.
“Ato na pud nang gihatag sa atong abogado kon unsay pwede ma-impose kay diri sa management side karon dili man sad ta basta-basta maka-issue kon unsa may atong ma-issue kay basin og ma-complicate pud na sa tong pending lagi nga kaso,” Beja said.
She said Rio Verde cut off the water supply on Friday because a gasket in a pipe was damaged.
Beja said Rio Verde asked for two hours to undertake the repair.
“But after two hours, nagdugang na pud silag pahibalo nga dili madala og duha ka oras, maabtan gyud siguro og tungang gabi-e. Pag-abot sa tungang gabi-e, wala pa man gyud gihapon,” Beja said.
Meanwhile, Misamis Oriental Vice Gov. Jose Mari Pelaez issued a statement, calling on Mayor Oscar Moreno and the city council to work as one in protecting the city’s water consumers.
Misamis Oriental officials have a stake in this given that the water crisis has adversely affected Opol town.
Pelaez said he is a resident and water consumer of Cagayan de Oro, too, and he is alarmed over the prospects of a substantial increase in water rates.
He said the demand of Rio Verde for a price increase would likely be relected on consumers’ water bills sooner or later.
“I am requesting the leadership of the city government and the city council to do everything they can to protect public interest and not in to the demands and threats of Rio Verde,” Pelaez said.
He called the Rio Verde demand as “unacceptable.”
“Consumers must be protected by the local government units. Cagayan de Oro has an abundant source of water, and the entry of new players that can supply water at reasonable rates should be seriously looked into as an alternative,” he said.