Bencyrus Ellorin .
BEFORE the Lenten holidays, the Cagayan de Oro Water District made a presentation on the new bulk water supply deal with Metro Pacific to the joint meeting of City Hall’s management committee and members of the City Council.
It was a rare executive-legislative meeting facilitated by City Administrator Teddy Sabugaa Jr.. The management committee which has been meeting at least twice a month since last January is composed of department heads and other key City Hall officials. It represents the City Hall bureaucracy.
The meeting with members of the City Council on the COWD issue was important as it finally cleared the air on the issue, especially that some members of the City Council are thought to have divergent views on the issue with the mayor.
The COWD, as we all know, is a city-owned corporation. The mayor appoints members of the board of directors, but has no direct hand in the day-to-day operations of the utility.
When the mayor said that City Hall should not intervene in the internal operations of the COWD, especially in the issue of the firing of the COWD General Manager Rachel Beja, spinners were quick to pounce on the issue, accusing the mayor of indifference to the water woes of the residents.
They were wrong. What the mayor meant was to respect internal operational matters of the COWD. That I think reflects the mayor’s appreciation of the principle of subsidiarity and his management style. Although he appoints members of the COWD BOD, he does not micromanage the water utility. It’s so unlike the old “boss” who micro-managed everything, leaving the City Hall bureaucracy at his beck and call, and the City Council of old, his stamping pad.
Certain issues were clarified in the executive-legislative meeting:
1) The increase in water rates is inevitable. The principal reason why Rio Verde wanted to exit from their bulk water supply contract with COWD is the clause that disallows it to raise prices. As a result, prior to the ending of their contract, it was supplying the city lower water volume, resulting in around 20,000 cubic meter deficit a day, especially in western part of the city.
2) Rio Verde (had it been allowed in its contract with COWD) or Metro Pacific, the price per cubic meter would be “reasonably” priced at P16 per cubic meter as of 2017 yet.
3) There will no automatic increase in water rates from our faucets, even if the price of bulk water supply is at P16 per cubic meter. Acting COWD general manager Bienvenido Batar said COWD can maintain its water rates in at least the next two years.
In his intervention during the meeting, Mayor Moreno acknowledged the water problem and accepted the challenge on how City Hall can address the issues and concerns. Among the top problems, he said, is the coverage of the COWD. Many far-flung upland barangays still do not have Level 3 water systems or faucets right in the homes of residents.
The mayor said this has to be addressed. He said City Hall would have to allocate funds for projects that would enable the COWD to serve better and on a much wider area.
How City Hall would mobilize resources, for me is a challenge to both the local bureaucracy, which would come up with concepts and propose solutions; and the local legislature — which indubitably will be the one who would make these resources available.
Members of the City Council who attended last week’s meeting were councilors Bong Lao, Eric Salcedo, Malou Gaane, Suzette Magtajas-Daba, George Goking and Romeo Calizo.
The city’s water woes is a community concern. And Mayor Moreno has demonstrated that it can be constructively addressed collectively by the community, without shouting and name calling.