The P10-billion hydroelectric-powered water treatment facility of the Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc. (AAII) in Barangay Gumalang, Baguio District is expected to be delayed after the City Council returned the item to the Committee on Housing, Rural, and Urban Development for several reasons including a protest by the barangay.
“One of the reasons the bulk water project was remanded to the committee level is because of the protest of Barangay Tamugan with the National Water Resources Board (NWRB),” Councilor Rene Elias Lopez, who chairs the committee said.
Apparently, there are various issues that have to settle within the committee level before the item on bulk water supply is brought back to the plenary, Lopez said.
It was earlier reported that project will start construction by fourth quarter this year.
Officials of the said barangay questioned the right of the Davao City Water District (DCWD) to transfer its extraction rights to Apo Agua, something that can only be granted by the NWRB. The barangay also questioned the share of the barangay in the project as well as the corporate social responsibility projects that will be implemented by the company.
AAII has an exclusive contract with the Davao City Water District (DCWD) for the project that will supply 300 million liters of water per day for 30 years, beginning 2019.
The project infrastructure includes a weir, a hydropower plant, and pipelines of about eight kilometers going to the water treatment facility. A 55-kilometer network of supply lines will also be rolled out towards the eight existing reservoirs of DCWD. It will pave the way for a shift of DCWD’s main water supply source from ground water to surface water, which will preserve aquifers and allow them to recharge.
There are also issues on the possible effects of the bulk water project on the city’s water rates considering that the city has the lowest at P13 per cubic meter compared to the national rate of P17 per cubic meter. The councilors and the barangay were however assured that the Local Water Utilities Administration will be consulted in case of water rate hike.
The bulk water project of AAII, which is a partnership between Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (AEV) and J.V. Angeles Construction Corp. (JVACC), is still in the pre-implementation phase while waiting for the approval of its request for the allowable use of land.
But while the committee has already threshed out some of the complaints raised by the barangay and hopes to sign a Memorandum of Understanding soon, there is another issue which has to be settled by the committee and by the company before it gets the allowable use approval.
Councilor Diosdado Mahipus, chair of the City Council Committee on Environment said his committee has not been consulted on the bulk water project which is ironic considering that it is located in the city’s watershed area. He said the bulk water project was not endorsed to his committee and he will definitely not recommend it considering the terms and its possible adverse effects on the watershed.
“We can’t help but raise questions like why is it allowed in a protected area and do we need to violate the city’s land use plan? We did not get any endorsement for the project from the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) or Malacañang on the necessity of the project,” Mahipus said. Lovely A. Carillo