By NITZ ARANCON
COUNCILOR Teodulfo Lao Jr. yesterday sounded alarm bells about the Pangilinan group’s alleged plan to engage in water distribution five years from now and subsequently participate in the management of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD).
COWD officials strongly denied the councilor’s assertions.
Lao claimed dismissed COWD general manager Rachel Beja confirmed this during a meeting of the city council’s public utilities committee on Tuesday.
Quoting Engr. Beja, Lao said the 2017 joint venture agreement COWD had with the Pangilinan-controlled Metro Pacific Water Investments Corp. has three implementation phases.
Lao said the first phase is the supply of treated water to the COWD through the Metro Pacific-COWD-owned Cagayan de Oro Bulkwater Inc. (Cobi).
The second phase, according to Lao, would take place after five years and that is, the Pangilinan group would join the COWD in distributing water here.
Lao said the third, supposedly provided for in the COWD-Metro Pacific contract, is that the Pangilinan group would join in the management of COWD.
“False,” snapped Eduardo Montalvan, COWD chairman.
Engr. Bienvenido Batar Jr., COWD general manager, added: “Not true.”
Batar said what the joint venture agreement provides is that on the 5th year, Cobi’s supply of treated water to the COWD would be increased to 100 million liters a day.
“That is all. The joint venture is for bulk supply only,” said Batar.
This paper asked Lao to cite a provision in the COWD-Metro Pacific agreement to support his assertions. He has yet to cite any at presstime.
Lao said Beja’s supposed revelations suggest that the COWD is headed the way of privatization.
The councilor also claimed that Beja told the public utilities committee that the COWD-Metro Pacific agreement was made despite the absence of public consultations.
Beja, according to Lao, claimed that the COWD did not organize a public hearing prior to the contract signing last year because there was no order from the Montalvan-chaired board.
“Wala magsulti ang board nga ilang i-public hearing. Diretso lang nila gipa-present ang Metropac sa ilang bulk water supply proposal,” Lao said.
Engr. Beja was dismissed by the COWD board a few weeks back for “loss of trust and confidence.” In earlier interviews, she said one of the reasons for her dismissal was because she sent a copy of the then proposed agreement between the COWD and Metro Pacific to the Office of Government Corporate Counsel for review. That, she said, was seen as “disrespect.”
Lao said Beja told his committee that there was nothing wrong with what she did and that it was a “usual procedure.”
Lao said there was nothing his committee could do about the COWD-Metro Pacific agreement because the document was already signed.
But he said he was hoping that the Philippine Competition Commission would decide on the petition for nullification which he filed along with councilors Enrico Salcedo and Reuben Daba.
Meanwhile, Lao frowned over the failure of COWD to send representatives during the committee hearing on Tuesday.
He complained that no COWD director or management representative showed up.
But he said Engr. Batar, Beja’s successor, wrote the committee and asked to be excused.