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Water, floods, houses

Bencyrus Ellorin .

IN his last and final term, Mayor Oscar Moreno spelled out his priority agenda — water, flood control and housing.

Yes, the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) is in Mayor Moreno’s mind. Fully aware of its problems, in fact disservice to the city, the Moreno administration is determined to help solving this problem.

There may be no need for him to join the choir in condemning the dastardly performance of the COWD, I would say; the mayor is dealing with the problem sideways.

He knows that the stagnation of the COWD’s development has been highlighted by the problematic, onerous, illegal bulk water contract with Rio Verde some 15 years ago. It was rescinded last year but the new bulk water provider has so far demonstrated how unprepared, inept and disabled it is.

More than a year after its partnership with the COWD commenced, Cagayan de Oro Bulk Water Inc. (Cobi) has so far failed to provide quality water services especially in the western part of the city.

A simple power outage at Moresco 1’s service area in Baungon, Bukidnon results in at least six hours of outrageous water outage. Since Cobi’s water pumps are not powered by windmills, diesel generator sets should be an essential part of their water plant, not an afterthought.

Mayor Moreno, in his charter day speech, said he recognizes the problem of the COWD in raising fresh capital either from the Local Water Utilities Administration or the banks. He thinks more government, national and local interventions are needed to mobilize these finances needed modernize and increase the capacity of the COWD. Hopefully with the manifestation of solid support from the Duterte administration, the much needed finances to repair the COWD would be forthcoming.

Flood. The mayor also wants to aggressively address the flooding issue. Due to its natural design, Cagayan de Oro is highly flood-prone. Flood is way up in the city’s geohazards. This is further aggravated by urbanization, with the city’s financial district located in low-lying and former swamps and climate change, urban flooding is as real as reality gets.

Climate variability have brought to the city and its environs more frequent and more intense extreme weather events. In the last seven years, Cagayan de Oro City and neighboring areas, long thought to be outside the typhoon belt have experienced 100-year cycle floods, brought by tropical storms — Sendong (Washi) in 2011, Pablo (Bopha) in 2012 and Vinta (Tembin) in 2016. Rains brought by these extreme weather events had caused massive and destructive floods.

While engineering solutions like the giant drainage constructions which also aggravates vehicular traffic and the mega dike may take time to complete, the city is ramping up disaster preparedness and response capabilities. Understanding the severity of the problem, retired general Councilor Romeo Calizo, a professional engineer, said what we need now is not just thinking out of the box, but acting outside the box. I hope the City Council can help on this matter.

The newly approved City Land Use Plan should provide hope by dispersing development to the western growth area, currently the uptown and the emerging eastern growth area in the Indahag, Macasandig areas.

Housing. Housing which was the flagship program of Mayor Moreno starting in 2016 is still on top of his development agenda.

Studies made by the City Housing and Urban Development Department (Chudd) estimates that the city’s housing problem is at least a P27-billion problem. That is the estimated cost of resettling in livable resettlement areas more than 30 thousand informal settlers.

While the city certainly cannot afford that P27 billion, it can lead in addressing the problem by buying lands where these communities would be established. Mayor Moreno has masterfully thought of a kurambos system with private housing developers to jumpstart the city’s housing program.

As provided by law, housing companies are to set aside at least 20 percent of their capital to low cost housing. Mayor Moreno’s formula is to mobilize a segment of that financial resource to the city. So far, there are two takers. The Villar group has appropriated P70 million for the land development of a resettlement site in Balubal.

Landmasters corporation, on the invitation of the mayor and prodding of the HLURB would be investing around P200 million for the housing community of City Hall employees in Lumbia.

The mayor is very serious in having these two pilot housing projects succeed. Its success would pave way for other developers to bring in their finances and partner with City Hall.

This housing strategy pushes the prices of houses which would be loaned by beneficiaries from the Socialized Housing and Finance Corp., Pagibig or National Home Mortgage Corp. very low and affordable as the beneficiaries would only be paying for the houses. In traditional subdivisions, homeonwers get to pay for the house, roads, drainage, power lines and other ancillary facilities.

With these sound priorities, the people cannot just expect in the sidelines, but are expected to engage. People’s participation, afterall is an essential aspect of governance.

(The writer is a former journalist. He is now into public relations and environment campaigning.)

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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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